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Graves' Disease

An autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormone. This causes such symptoms as nervousness, heat intolerance, heart palpitations, and unexplained weight loss.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)

About Graves' Disease

Graves' disease, also known as toxic diffuse goiter, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. Hyperthyroidism is a disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormone than the body needs.

The Thyroid

The thyroid is a 2-inch-long, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck below the larynx, or voice box. The thyroid makes two thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3 ) and thyroxine (T4 ). T3 is made from T4 and is the more active hormone, directly affecting the tissues. Thyroid hormones circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream and act on virtually every tissue and cell in the body....Read more about Graves' Disease NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Radioiodine treatment for pediatric Graves' disease

Graves' disease is a common cause of hyperthyroidism in children and adolescents which excessive amounts of thyroid hormones circulating in the blood. Affected children and adolescents suffer from increased heart beats, warm moist skin, fatigue, weight loss, raised body temperature, eye and other problems. Application of radioactive iodine (radioiodine), surgical removal of the thyroid gland or drugs that interfere with the production of thyroid hormones (antithyroid drugs) are used to treat this disease.

Radioiodine therapy versus antithyroid medications for Graves' disease

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body's immune systems attacks the body itself by means of antibodies. These antibodies stimulate the thyroid gland to produce and secrete excessive amounts of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Other typical characteristics of Graves' disease are goitre and eye disease (Graves' ophthalmopathy or orbitopathy). Currently, antithyroid medications such as methimazole or propylthiouracil and radioactive iodine (radioiodine, given either in a capsule or in a tasteless solution in water) are most often used for the treatment of Graves' disease. Radioiodine destroys most cells in the thyroid gland, so that secretion of thyroid hormones is massively reduced. Antithyroid medications block the production of thyroid hormones, also leading to a decrease in the production of these hormones.

Thyroid surgery for Graves' disease and Graves' opthalmopathy

The aim of this review was to compare different surgical techniques for treatment of Graves' disease. We wanted to address whether surgically removing the whole thyroid (total thyroidectomy) gland is better than removing most of the gland (subtotal thyroidectomy) at controlling increased activity of the thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and eye symptoms associated with Graves' disease.

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Summaries for consumers

Research studies: Graves' disease: Is it better to start off with lower-dose therapy?

If lower doses of drugs for Graves' disease are used at the start of treatment, side effects are less common too.

Radioiodine treatment for pediatric Graves' disease

Graves' disease is a common cause of hyperthyroidism in children and adolescents which excessive amounts of thyroid hormones circulating in the blood. Affected children and adolescents suffer from increased heart beats, warm moist skin, fatigue, weight loss, raised body temperature, eye and other problems. Application of radioactive iodine (radioiodine), surgical removal of the thyroid gland or drugs that interfere with the production of thyroid hormones (antithyroid drugs) are used to treat this disease.

Radioiodine therapy versus antithyroid medications for Graves' disease

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body's immune systems attacks the body itself by means of antibodies. These antibodies stimulate the thyroid gland to produce and secrete excessive amounts of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Other typical characteristics of Graves' disease are goitre and eye disease (Graves' ophthalmopathy or orbitopathy). Currently, antithyroid medications such as methimazole or propylthiouracil and radioactive iodine (radioiodine, given either in a capsule or in a tasteless solution in water) are most often used for the treatment of Graves' disease. Radioiodine destroys most cells in the thyroid gland, so that secretion of thyroid hormones is massively reduced. Antithyroid medications block the production of thyroid hormones, also leading to a decrease in the production of these hormones.

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Terms to know

Autoimmune Disease
Disease that results when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues. Examples include multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Goiter
Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. The resulting bulge on the neck may become extremely large, but most simple goiters are brought under control before this happens. Occasionally a simple goiter may cause some difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
Hyperthyroidism
Too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms include weight loss, chest pain, cramps, diarrhea, and nervousness. Also called overactive thyroid.
Metabolism
The chemical changes that take place in a cell or an organism. These changes make energy and the materials cells and organisms need to grow, reproduce, and stay healthy. Metabolism also helps get rid of toxic substances.
Palpitations
Palpitations are feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or too fast.
Thyroid Gland
A gland located beneath the larynx (voice box) that makes thyroid hormone and calcitonin. The thyroid helps regulate growth and metabolism. Also called thyroid gland.
Thyroid Hormones
A hormone that affects heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. Thyroid hormone is made by the thyroid gland and can also be made in the laboratory.
Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
A hormone produced by the pituitary gland. TSH stimulates the release of thyroid hormone.
Thyroiditis
Inflammation of the thyroid gland.

More about Graves' Disease

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Exophthalmic goitre, Toxic diffuse goitre, Toxic diffuse goiter, Exophthalmic goiter, Basedow disease, Basedow's disease, Graves disease, Grave's disease

Other terms to know: See all 9
Autoimmune Disease, Goiter, Hyperthyroidism

Related articles:
Thyroid Function Tests

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