Graves’ disease

Graves’ disease

What is Graves’ disease?

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease. These diseases occur when the body’s antibodies turn and attack the body’s organs.

In the case of Graves’ disease, the attacking antibodies overstimulate the thyroid causing it to make excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

In addition, high thyroid hormone levels can lead to the upper eye lids retracting, resulting in a staring expression. About half of people with Graves’ disease will also have protuberant eyeballs (called exophthalmos or proptosis). This condition happens when the muscles and fat inside the eye cavity enlarge, pushing the eye forward.

What causes it?

Graves’ disease usually begins in young to mid-adult life. The exact cause of the condition is unknown but family history and genetic factors clearly predispose some people to the condition.

What are the symptoms?

Some of the symptoms of Graves’ disease are:

  • Tremor, anxiety and heat intolerance
  • Eye swelling
  • Coarsening and reddening of the skin on the shins