About 20 million Americans are affected by various thyroid conditions. While not specifically fatal, thyroid disorders can alter the body's important processes and may pose numerous health risks.1 One of these thyroid conditions is Graves' disease. The disease takes its name from Dr. Robert Graves, an Irish physician. While Graves did not discover the disease, he wrote an extensive study on several pregnant women who exhibited overactive thyroids and protruded eyeballs.
It is called by this name in both the United States and the United Kingdom, but in other parts of the world, it is known as "Basedow's disease," after Dr. Karl von Basedow who wrote about this thyroid disease.2 It also goes by the name "toxic diffuse goiter" and "exophthalmic goiter."3
How Does Graves' Disease Affect Your Thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found in front of the neck, below the voice box. It is responsible for producing hormones that regulate body growth, development and metabolism. It also plays an important role in the regulation of your heart rate, body temperature and emotional state.
This is mainly because the thyroid is responsible for the secretion of triiodothyronine (T3), tetraiodothyronine (T4) and diiodothyronine (T2), hormones that have the ability to interact with the other hormones that are present in the body, like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.4
Having enough levels of these hormones is vital because an imbalance would cause a slew of adverse effects and may even result in serious diseases, such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's disease and Graves' disease. Graves' disease is actually one of the leading causes of hyperthyroidism. This autoimmune disease works by making the immune system secrete antibodies that act like thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH), which then trigger hormone secretion in the thyroid.5
Who Is Usually Affected by Graves' Disease?
According to the Graves' Disease and Thyroid Foundation, about 2 to 3 percent of the American population has Graves' disease. This means that roughly about 10 million people are affected by this condition; some of them remain undiagnosed. While Graves' disease may strike at any time in a person's life, the peak age is between 20 to 40 years. It has also been observed to affect women five to 10 times more, but manifests itself in a more severe form in men.6
People with other autoimmune diseases are also more predisposed to Graves' disease. These include:7
- Vitiligo, a skin condition where white patches appear on the skin. This is caused by the destruction of melanocytes in the skin, or the cells responsible for the production of pigment.
- Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that targets the joints. It usually causes swelling, pain and limited movement.
- Lupus, a condition where the immune system starts attacking healthy cells. This is caused by the immune system's inability to differentiate between your cells and foreign invaders.
Read these articles to know more about the symptoms, diagnosis, effects, possible complications and treatment for Graves' disease. You will also learn about the different and natural ways on how to prevent and deal with this autoimmune condition.