Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid gland to over-produce thyroid hormone resulting in a condition known as hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland that is located in the lower-front part of your neck which produces thyroid hormone. An excessive amount of thyroid hormone brings about a condition known as hyperthyroidism.
As the most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease, most of the symptoms are the same as hyperthyroidism symptoms. However, people with Graves' disease may also have other symptoms not related to hyperthyroidism
. Sometimes Graves' disease is confused with other conditions, which can make it very difficult to diagnose. That is why it is important to differentiate your symptoms from other conditions in order to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis. Although Graves' disease can affect anyone, it is more common among women before the age of 40. The aim of treatment is to bring the overproduction of thyroid hormones to normal level and lessen the severity of symptoms.
Typical symptoms of hypothyroidism are abnormal weight gain, tiredness, constipation, heavy menstrual bleeding, hair loss, cold intolerance, and a slow heart rate.
Common signs and symptoms of Graves' disease include:
- Anxiety and irritability
- A fine tremor of your hands or fingers
- Heat sensitivity and an increase in perspiration or warm, moist skin
- Weight loss, despite normal eating habits
- difficulty sleeping and/or insomnia
- elevated blood pressure
- muscle weakness
- Enlargement of your thyroid gland (goiter)
- Change in menstrual cycles
- Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido
- Frequent bowel movements
- Bulging eyes (Graves' ophthalmopathy)
- vision problems or changes
- Thick, red skin usually on the shins or tops of the feet (Graves' dermopathy)
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- chest pain
Left untreated other symptoms can be developed in Graves' disease.
It is a specific eye disease associated with Graves' disease that involves inflammation of the eyes and bulging eyes. Eye problems that are related to Graves' disease can be mild to extremely severe. In more mild cases, your eyes may become red and inflamed or they may tear or be very sensitive to light. In severe cases, Graves' disease can cause inflammation of the eye muscles. The muscles and tissues of the eyes may become swollen and may cause bulging eyes resulting in a condition called exophthalmos. The resulting signs and symptoms may include:
- Gritty sensation in the eyes
- Pressure or pain in the eyes
- Puffy or retracted eyelids
- Reddened or inflamed eyes
- Double vision
- Vision loss
- Light sensitivity
It is development of lumpy reddish patches and thickening of the skin, most often on your shins or the tops of your feet. The skin problems are usually painless and is not that serious.
A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that can cause the front of the neck to look swollen. A goiter might be related with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or ordinary thyroid function. Goiters related to Graves’ disease are called diffuse thyrotoxic goiters. These goiters can be small lumps or they can be large which can make swallowing difficult. If it is large enough, it can also cause you to cough and may make it more difficult for you to sleep.
Some people with Graves' disease will not experience these symptoms in the early stages of the condition. So it is important to watch your symptoms closely so that your doctor can make an accurate diagnosis.
If you are experiencing heart-related signs and symptoms, such as a rapid or irregular heartbeat, or if you develop vision loss, you need immediate medical attention.