What is Graves' Disease?

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune thyroid disorder typically characterized by low thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels and elevated T4 and/or T3 values, which lead to hyperthyroidism. The causative agent of Graves' Disease is thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI). While the disease has been known for many years, onset is often subtle, with nonspecific symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, and sudden weight loss, making it difficult to diagnose without proper lab testing. However, elevated levels of TSI in a patient’s bloodstream, which are specific to Graves’ disease, can be detected using the Thyretain TSI Reporter BioAssay. The results of this assay can provide physicians with an important aid in the diagnosis of Graves’ disease.

Causes of Graves' Disease

Graves’ disease is a B-cell mediated autoimmune response to the thyroid stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR) on the thyroid gland, but the etiology of the disease is unknown. It is suspected that the disease is at least in part hereditary, and that a family history of other thyroid or autoimmune disorders increases the chance that a patient will eventually develop Graves’ disease.
In addition, environmental factors can trigger the immune system to produce TSI. These factors include other diseases, medications, or hormonal stress, i.e. due to pregnancy. Research suggests that factors that trigger the immune system may cause an overreaction to another foreign substance, which in turn triggers the immune system to produce TSI.

Signs and Symptoms of Graves' Disease

Early symptoms of Graves’ disease include
-        Tachycardia
-        Palpitations
-        chest pain
-        anxiety
-        depression
-        weight loss
-        fatigue
If diagnosis is made at this early point, proper treatment of the disease can delay or prevent more serious signs, such as
-        goiter
-        exophthalmos/Graves’ opthalmopathy
-        atrial fibrillation
-        tremor
-        osteoporosis
-        pretibial myxedema
 

 Graves' Disease and Pregnancy

The American Thyroid Association recommends that the following high-risk women be screened for thyroid disease either prior to becoming pregnant, or as soon as feasible once a woman becomes pregnant:
- Women with a history of thyroid disease or thyroid surgery.
-        Women with a family history of thyroid disease
-        Women with a goiter
-        Women with known thyroid antibodies
-        Women with symptoms or clinical signs of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
-        Women with Type I diabetes mellitus
-        Women with other autoimmune disorders
-        Women with infertility
-        Women with previous therapeutic head or neck irradiation
-        Women with a history of miscarriage or preterm delivery