Graves' Disease Explained

Graves' disease is an autoimmune condition that causes your metabolism to speed up. This often leads to the development of hyperthyroidism due to your faster metabolism causing your immune system to go into overdrive, which in turn leads to too much of a thyroid-stimulating hormone being produced by your pituitary gland. When your thyroid is overstimulated, you are at an increased risk of developing heart failure and several other serious health conditions. Doctors don't yet fully understand the causes of Graves' disease, but those with a family history of the condition and those who smoke are more likely to develop the condition. Here's what you need to know about Graves' disease:


Symptoms of Graves' disease include gastric upset, weight loss, irritability and fatigue. You may also experience muscle weakness, general achiness and a rapid heartbeat. Some sufferers also develop an eye condition known as ophthalmopathy, which can cause your vision to deteriorate. Early signs of ophthalmopathy include localised swelling, eye irritation and bulging of the eyes.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your GP will make their diagnosis by taking details of your symptoms and conducting a physical exam. Blood samples will be taken to check organ function, inflammatory markers and thyroid hormone levels. Those with Graves' disease also tend to have certain antibodies present in their blood, so it's fairly easy for your GP to get a clear indication of whether your symptoms are linked to the condition.

Your GP will discuss a treatment plan with you, and as there's no cure for Graves' disease, the aim of treatment is to lower the levels of thyroid hormone being produced or to block the effects of the hormones produced by your thyroid. Beta-blockers may be prescribed to stabilise your heart rate, while radioactive iodine may be given to reduce the levels of hormones produced by your thyroid. If you take radioactive iodine, your GP will carry out regular blood tests to ensure you are receiving the optimal dose, as taking too much of this drug can damage your thyroid and lead to too little of these essential hormones being produced. In some cases, your doctor may recommend you have your thyroid gland removed. This will bring relief from your symptoms, but you will have to take a synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of your life, as hormones produced by your thyroid are required for optimal health.

Most medical centres can carry out blood tests the same day your GP requests them, so if you're experiencing any of the symptoms noted above, schedule an appointment with your GP to quickly establish the cause and get a treatment plan in place.     

If you have additional questions, contact a local medical centre.