Grave's disease symptoms

Grave's disease symptoms are triggered by the immune system targeting certain tissues and attacking them. This condition causes overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

Located in the front of the neck just below the larynx (voicebox), the thyroid gland is an important organ of the endocrine system. The thyroid secretes the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which control body metabolism. Regulation of metabolism is critical in controlling mood, weight and mental and physical energy levels.

Thyroid disorders caused by overproduction of thyroid hormones are called hyperthyroidism, and underproduction of these hormones is known as hypothyroidism.

Grave's disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. The production of thyroid hormone is increased, causing a wide range of grave's disease symptoms from anxiety and restlessness to insomnia and weight loss. In addition, the eyeballs may begin to protrude (exophthalmos) causing irritation and tearing.

Grave's disease is caused by innapropriate immune system activation that targets the thyroid gland and causes overproduction of thyroid hormones. Risk factors are being a woman over 20 years old, although the disorder may occur at any age and can affect men.

Grave's disease symptoms

  • Protruding eyes (less common in children)
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Heat intolerance
  • Increased sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Double vision
  • Eye irritation
  • Breast enlargement in men (possible)
  • Tremor
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Menstrual irregularities in women
  • Goiter (possible)

Treatment of Grave's disease symptoms

The purpose of treatment of Grave's disease symptoms is to control the overactivity of the thyroid gland. Beta-blockers such as propranolol are often used to treat symptoms of rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety until the hyperthyroidism is controlled. Hyperthyroidism is treated with antithyroid medications, radioactive iodine or surgery.

Both radiation and surgery result in the need for lifelong use of replacement thyroid hormones, because these treatments destroy or remove the gland.

The eye problems related to Grave's disease symptoms usually resolve when the hyperthyroidism is effectively treated with medications, radiation or surgery. Sometimes use of prednisone (a steroid medication which suppresses the immune system) is required to reduce eye irritation and swelling.

Taping the eyes closed at night to prevent drying may sometimes be required. Sunglasses and eyedrops may lessen irritation of the eyes. Rarely, surgery may be needed to return the eyes to their normal position.


For most people, Grave's disease responds well to treatment. However, thyroid surgery or radioactive iodine can result in hypothyroidism, which can lead to weight gain, depression and mental and physical sluggishness. Antithyroid medications can also have serious side effects.

Grave's disease symptoms can develop into further complications such as :

  • Eye problems associated with the disease (called Grave's ophthalmopathy or exophthalmos)
  • Cardiac complications including rapid heart rate, congestive heart failure (especially in the elderly) and atrial fibrillation
  • Thyroid crisis or "storm," a severe worsening or exaggeration of the symptoms of overactivity of the thyroid gland
  • Increased risk for osteoporosis
  • Inadequate levels of thyroid hormone medications following surgery or radiation can lead to fatigue, elevated cholesterol levels, mild weight gain, depression and mental and physical sluggishness
  • Complications related to surgery, including visible scarring of the neck and hoarseness due to damege of the nerve to the voicebox, and low calcium levels due to damage to the parathyroid glands

A healthy lifestyle is encouraged, including good general nutrition. Adequate rest and relaxation can help maintain energy levels. Attempts should be made to avoid fatigue, stress, temperature extremes, and illness to reduce factors that may trigger grave's disease symptoms.

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