What is Graves' Disease?
Graves’ disease, the leading cause of hyperthyroidism, is the #1 autoimmune disorder characterized by generalized overactivity of the thyroid gland. With a ratio of eight to one, Graves’ disease is more prevalent in women than in men.1
In a normal-functioning thyroid, the pituitary gland secrets thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to stimulate the production of thyroid hormones; however, in Graves’ disease, B-cells, which are part of the immune system, release abnormal antibodies that mimic TSH, called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI).1 These false signals cause the thyroid gland to produce too much thyroid hormone, thus resulting in hyperthyroidism.
Along with the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism, some patients experience exophthalmos, a condition that causes the eye muscles and tissues to swell, resulting in eyeballs protruding from their sockets. Exophthalmos is characteristic among patients with Graves’ disease, but it is unknown whether the condition is caused by Graves’ Disease or if it is closely related to another disorder.
1Thompson, L.D.R. (2007) Diffuse hyperplasia of the thyroid gland (Graves’ disease). ENT: Ear, Nose & Throat Journal, Vol. 86 Issue 11, p. 666-667.
For more information about Graves' Disease, please visit the National Graves' Disease Foundation.