What Is Graves’ Disease, What Are The Causes And Its Complications?

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune system disorder that results in the excessive production of thyroid hormones that is also known as hyperthyroidism. Although a number of disorders may result in hyperthyroidism it is also a common cause because thyroid hormone affects a number of different body systems. The sign and symptoms associated with this disease can be wide-ranging and influence you over well being. As the graves’ disease affects anyone, it is more common in women and before the age of 40. The primary treatment goals are to inhibit the overproduction of the thyroid hormones and also lessen the symptoms.

Graves’ disease is a cluster of symptoms caused by the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland in your lower neck which affects 3 % of people.


Graves’ disease is caused by a malfunction in the body’s disease-fighting immune system but its causes are idiopathic.

The immune system produces antibodies designed to target a specific virus, bacteria, or foreign substances. In Graves’ disease- for reasons that are not well identified that the immune system which produces an antibody to one heart of the cells in the hormone-producing gland in the neck.

Normally, thyroid function is regulated by the hormone that is released by a tiny gland at the base of the brain which is the pituitary gland. The antibody associated with Graves’ disease is the thyrotropin receptor antibody acts as the regulatory pituitary hormone which means that the thyrotropin receptor antibody overrides the normal regulation of the thyroid causing an overproduction of the thyroid hormones.

Causes Of Graves’ Ophthalmopathy

Graves’ ophthalmopathy results from a buildup of certain carbohydrates in the muscles and tissues behind your eyes where its exact causes are also not known. It appears that the same antibody that causes thyroid dysfunction also has an attraction to the surrounding tissue of your eye.

Graves’ ophthalmopathy appears at the same time as hyperthyroidism but signs and symptoms of ophthalmopathy may appear year before or after the onset of hyperthyroidism. It can also occur even if there is no presence of hyperthyroidism.

Risk Factors

Although anyone can develop this disease many factors can increase the risk of Graves’ disease that includes:

  • Family history- Because a family history of Graves’ disease is a known risk factor where there is likely a gene or genes that can make a person more susceptible to the disorder.
  • Sex- Women are most likely to develop Graves’ disease in comparison with men.
  • Age- Graves’ disease usually develops in people before 40 age.
  • Other autoimmune disorders- People with other disorders of the immune system such as type 1 diabetes have an increased risk.
  • Emotional stress- Stressful life events may act as a trigger for the onset of Graves’ disease among people who have genes that increase the risk of getting infected.
  • Pregnancy- Pregnancy may also increase the risk of the disorder in most of the women who have a gene that increases the risk.
  • Smoking- Cigarette smoking which can affect the immune system increases the risk of having Graves’ disease. The person who smokes who is already having Graves’ disease are also at increased risk of developing Graves’ disease.


Complications of Graves’ disease are:

1) Pregnancy issues

A possible complication of Graves’ disease during pregnancy includes miscarriage, preterm birth, maternal heart failure, fetal thyroid dysfunction, and pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition of the pregnant mother where the blood pressure is high with other severe signs and symptoms.

2) Heart disorder

Graves’ disease leads to heart rhythm disorder, changes in the structure and function of the heart muscles, the inability of the heart to pump enough to the body if the condition is left untreated.

3) Thyroid storm

A rare but life-threatening complication of this disease is thyroid storm which is also known as accelerated hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxic crisis. It’s more likely when treated is inadequate for the condition like severe hyperthyroidism. The sudden and drastic increase in thyroid hormones can produce many effects that involve diarrhea, delirium, vomiting, fever, sweating, irregular heart rate, yellow skin, and eyes. Thyroid storm needs emergency care.

4) Brittle bones

Untreated hyperthyroidism leads to weak, brittle bones that include osteoporosis. The strength of your bone usually depends in part on the amount of calcium in which they contain. Too much thyroid hormone also interferes with your body’s ability to incorporate calcium into your bones.

Last Updated on July 28, 2023 by john liam