What Causes Graves’ Disease?

Stressed Man

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  • The exact cause of Graves’ disease has not yet been determined
  • Although about 70 percent of Graves’ disease can be attributed to the genetic background of an individual, the remaining 30 percent may be influenced by other external factors

The exact cause of Graves' disease has not yet been determined. Family and twin studies show that this condition may be linked to genetics because people who have relatives with Graves' disease have a higher predisposition of also developing the disease. In one family study, it was found that a third of the siblings of patients with Graves' disease also developed it at some point in their lives. This study and other studies showed that Graves' disease does not stem from a singular and isolated case of gene defect.

The high susceptibility for this disease can be passed down from one generation to the succeeding generations.1 Although about 70 percent of Graves' disease can be attributed to the genetic background of an individual, the remaining 30 percent may be influenced by other external factors.2

Extensive studies are being done to determine whether Graves' disease may also be caused by other external, emotional and environmental factors. These include:

  • Smoking. Nicotine has been observed to have a direct effect on the increase in secretion patterns of thyroid hormones. This may lead to increased thyroid hormone levels in the blood, contributing to the development of Graves' disease. However, it may also work in an opposite manner, wherein Graves' disease contributes to the increase of cigarette smoking because of the heightened stress and anxiety levels of a person suffering from it.3
  • Allergens. Seasonal allergens like ragweed and pollen, as well as food allergens, are contributing factors and may even cause a relapse for patients who are in remission.4 Food allergies also have the ability to mimic symptoms of Graves' disease and may make a clear diagnosis harder. It's better that you limit or cut off the consumption of foods that contain possible allergens, to make it easier for you and your health practitioner to diagnose and treat Graves' disease.5
  • Stress. Studies show that stress influences both the development and the severity of the symptoms of Graves' disease. A higher occurrence of Graves' disease was observed during times when physical and emotional stress was rampant in the population.6
  • Gender. Your gender may also affect your risk of developing this autoimmune disease. Women are nine times more likely to develop Graves' disease than men. Some studies connect this to the effect of sex hormones on the thyroid gland.7
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy is known to influence how the thyroid functions by triggering an increase in thyroid hormone production. Studies also show that women who have been pregnant 12 months prior had a higher susceptibility to Graves' disease. 8

It's a good idea to limit your exposure to the environmental factors above, and if you fall into the category of the other factors, be especially vigilant of this illness. This is important if Graves' disease runs in your family. This will help lower your risk and reduce your chances of developing this disease.

MORE ABOUT GRAVES' DISEASE

Graves' Disease: Introduction

What Is Graves' Disease?

Graves' Disease Symptoms

Graves' Disease Causes

Graves' Disease Treatment

Graves' Disease Diet

Graves' Disease FAQ

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