Graves' Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder. This means that your body’s immune system mistakenly overstimulates your thyroid gland, causing it to produce too much thyroid hormone. The condition can also cause eye problems, such as bulging, tearing, dryness and vision changes.

Graves’ disease is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism. The autoimmune disorder affects about 1 in 200 people, usually before the age of 40. The disease often runs in families, and women are up to eight times more likely than men to develop it.

The thyroid specialists at Henry Ford Health are experts at diagnosing Graves’ disease. We successfully treat patients throughout Michigan and beyond.

What are the symptoms of Graves’ disease?

People with Graves’ disease have a thyroid gland that produces too much thyroid hormone. This overproduction can result in symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Dry eyes or tearing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Swollen or protruding eyeballs
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vision changes or loss
  • Weight loss

How do we diagnose Graves’ disease?

During a physical exam your doctor may notice an enlarged thyroid gland. Blood tests that measure levels of thyroid hormones can confirm if you have hyperthyroidism.

To determine if Graves’ disease is the cause of hyperthyroidism, you and your doctor will discuss family history and symptoms you’re experiencing. Often, blood tests are needed to help confirm the diagnosis.

How do we treat Graves’ disease?

In many cases, Graves’ disease does not require thyroid surgery. Endocrinologists can use medications to regulate hormone production.

But sometimes you need other treatment to normalize thyroid hormone levels. We may recommend radioactive iodine or a thyroidectomy if:

  • Medications aren’t enough to control your condition
  • Hyperthyroidism returns after treatment with medication

During a thyroidectomy, our surgeon removes all of the thyroid gland. After surgery, you need replacement hormones to restore balance to your metabolism and other functions controlled by thyroid hormones.

doctor examining patients thyroid
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