Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease wherein the body produces antibodies to the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor, causing the thyroid to produce more hormones than needed. It causes the thyroid to enlarge to twice its size.

Symptoms include increased heartbeat, weight loss, increased appetite, muscle weakness, disturbed sleep, and irritability. It may cause bulging eyes. As thyroid hormones affect the body’s metabolic activity, other organs are affected too: skin, heart, and the circulatory and nervous systems. Risk factors are female gender, other autoimmune disorders, stress, pregnancy, and smoking.

It affects up to 2% of the female population, affecting women seven to eight times more often than men. The reason for autoantibodies’ production is unknown, but there appears to be a genetic predisposition. Currently, there have been about 20 genetic polymorphisms identified, including thyroid-specific genes and those that regulate autoimmune response. Treatment usually involves antithyroid drugs, radioiodine treatment, and surgical excision of the gland.

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