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Graves’ disease: Symptoms, Causes and Risk factors

Graves’ Disease is an immune system disorder which is resulting in overproduction of thyroid hormones (a condition known as hyperthyroidism). There are many different diseases that can result in hyperthyroidism but it is one of the most common causes for it.

The thyroid hormones are affecting many different body systems so the signs and symptoms which are associated with the Graves’ disease can be wide-ranging and they can significantly influence your overall well being [1].

The Graves’ disease can affect any single person but it is more common in women and people who are before the age of 40. The primary treatment for it is to inhibit the overproduction of thyroid hormones and to lessen the severity of the symptoms. [2]

Graves' disease

Graves’ disease Symptoms:

The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • You can have a thick, red skin usually on the shins or tops of the feet (Graves’ dermopathy)
  • Fatigue
  • Bulging eyes (Graves’ ophthalmopathy)
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido
  • Change in menstrual cycles
  • Enlargement of your thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Weight loss, despite normal eating habits
  • You can feel a heat sensitivity and an increase in perspiration or warm, moist skin
  • A fine tremor of your hands or fingers
  • Anxiety and irritability


It is known that Graves’ disease is caused by a malfunction in the body’s disease-fighting immune system but the exact reason why this is happening is not known. The immune system is producing antibodies that are designed to target a specific virus, bacterium, or other foreign substance. When someone has this, then the body is producing an antibody to one part of the cells in the thyroid gland which is a hormone-producing gland in the neck.

The thyroid function is regulated by a hormone released by a tiny gland at the base of the brain (known as the pituitary gland). The antibody which is associated with it (known as thyrotropin receptor antibody) acts as the regulatory pituitary hormone. This means that the TRAb overrides the normal regulation of the thyroid which is causing overproduction of thyroid hormones (called hyperthyroidism).

Risk factors:

Every single person can develop Graves’ disease but there are many different factors that can increase the risk of this disease. Some of the most common factors for Graves’ disease are


Cigarette smoking can affect the immune system which is increasing the risk of Graves’ disease. Those people who have Graves’ disease are having an increased risk of developing Graves’ ophthalmopathy. [3]


It is known that recent childbirth or pregnancy can increase the risk of this disorder, particularly among women who are genetically susceptible. [4]

Emotional or physical stress:

It is known that stressful life events or illness can act as a trigger for the onset of Graves’ disease among people who are genetically susceptible. [1]


Graves’ disease usually is developing in people who are younger than age 40. [2]


There are many studies in which are said that women are having increased chances of developing Graves’ disease compared to men [2].

Family history:

It is known that family history is a risk factor for the Graves’ disease so it is likely a gene or genes to make a person more susceptible to the disorder. [5]

Other autoimmune disorders:

Those people who have disorders of the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes have an increased risk for Graves’ disease.


Here are some possible complications of Graves’ disease:

Brittle bones:

If you leave the hyperthyroidism untreated, then it can leave to brittle bones. When you have too much thyroid hormone, then it can interfere with your body’s ability to incorporate calcium into your bones. [6]

Pregnancy issues:

Some possible complications of it during pregnancy include preeclampsia, maternal heart failure, poor fetal growth, fetal thyroid dysfunction, preterm birth, and miscarriage. [4]

Heart disorders:

If the Graves’ disease is untreated, then it can lead to changes in the structure and function of the heart muscles, heart rhythm disorders, and inability of the heart to pump enough blood all parts the body. [7]


[1] Fukao A, Takamatsu J, Arishima T, et al. Graves’ disease and mental disorders. Journal of Clinical & Translational Endocrinology. 2020;19:100207.

[2] American Thyroid Association. Graves’ disease. Retrieved from

[3] Asvold BO, Bjøro T, Nilsen TIL, et al. Tobacco smoking and thyroid function: A population-based study. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2007;167(13):1428-1432. doi:10.1001/archinte.167.13.1428

[4] Moleti M, Di Mauro M, Sturniolo G, et al. Hyperthyroidism in the pregnant woman: Maternal and fetal aspects. Journal of Clinical and Translational Endocrinology. 2019;16:100190. doi:10.1016/j.jcte.2019.100190

[5] Girgis CM, Champion BL, Wall JR. Current concepts in Graves’ disease. Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011;2(3):135–44. doi:10.1177/2042018811408488

[6] Dhanwal DK. Thyroid disorders and bone mineral metabolism. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011;15(Suppl2):S107–S112. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.83339

[7] Osuna PM, Udovcic M, Sharma MD. Hyperthyroidism and the heart. Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal. 2017;13(2):60–3.

Neem Mayur
Neem Mayur
Mayur Neem, a certified dietician having more than 5 years of experience in the field of diet practice. He is working as a diet expert and offering services to body builders, sports persons, celebrities, etc. He is lover of natural remedies and loves to spend most of his free time in his organic farm and offers expert advice on organic farming to local farmers. He is available through [email protected]


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