Graves disease is a disease that most commonly affects the thyroid, frequently causing it to enlarge to twice its size or more (goiter) and become overactive.
Symptoms include increased heartbeat, muscle weakness, disturbed sleep, and irritability. It can also affect the eyes, causing bulging eyes. It affects other systems of the body, including the skin, heart, circulation and nervous system. This disorder can affect anyone at any age but occurs most commonly in women who are over the age of 20.
Graves disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland produces excessive hormones. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ that lies flat against the windpipe in the throat. It produces the hormones that play an important role in controlling the body's metabolism.
Exactly why the immune system begins to produce antibodies that affect the thyroid is unclear. Heredity and other characteristics seem to play a role in determining susceptibility. Also, women are more likely than men to develop the disease. Smokers who develop Graves' disease are more prone to eye problems than nonsmokers with the disease.
There are 3 main treatments for Graves' disease: antithyroid medicine which keeps the thyroid from making too much thyroid hormone; radioactive iodine (RAI) which destroys thyroid cells so that less thyroid hormone is made; surgery in which the thyroid is removed.