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Graves' Disease Introduction

Graves' Disease Introduction
Causes and Risk Factors

Graves’ disease
Graves’ disease, also known as “toxic diffuse goiter”, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. Experts estimate that at least half of the 27 million Americans with overactive or underactive thyroid glands remain undiagnosed. But what exactly are the characteristics of Graves’ disease? And what is the role of the thyroid gland?

Thyroid gland anatomy
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which includes a collection of glands and tissues that produce hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate many of the body's activities, from digestion to metabolism to reproduction. Thyroid hormones affect many body systems and are involved in controlling metabolic rate.

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland inside the neck that helps regulate the way the body works. The thyroid located in front of the breathing airway, or trachea, and below the larynx, or voice box. The main function of the thyroid gland is to make two thyroid hormones called tri-iodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) which regulate how much energy the body burns, a process known as metabolism. In other words, thyroid hormones regulate how the body breaks down food and either uses that energy immediately or stores it for the future.

What is Graves’ disease?
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that during the condition the body’s immune system acts against its own healthy cells and tissues. During Graves’ disease, the immune system creates antibodies called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) that attach to thyroid cells. TSI mimics the action of a naturally occurring hormone, TSH, and stimulate the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. Sometimes, however, the antibodies can block thyroid hormone production, making Graves’ disease difficult for doctors to recognize and diagnose.

Types of Graves’ disease
Different diseases can affect the thyroid gland. Although thyroid diseases and disorders are fairly easy to treat, they affect many people and can often go undiagnosed. Some of types of immune disorders related to Graves’ disease include:

Grave’s ophthalmopathy (GO) - This thyroid eye disease occurs when cells from the immune system attack the muscles and tissues around the eyes, which causes inflammation and tissue / fat build-up behind the eye socket that makes the eyeballs bulge. In rare cases, vision loss can occur. Although this condition can occur during cases of Hashimoto's thyroiditis, primary hypothyroidism, or thyroid cancer soft tissue inflammation, protrusion of one or both globes of the eyes, corneal exposure, and optic nerve compression are relatively specific manifestations of Grave’s ophthalmopathy.

Graves’ dermopathy – Although this type of Graves’ disease is rare, people can develop a lumpy, reddish thickening of the skin that is called “pretibial myxedema”. This results from a build-up of protein in the skin and most often occurs on the shins and on the tops of the feet.

Do you know what causes Graves’ disease? Are you at risk of developing this autoimmune disorder? Click here to read more about risk factors and Graves’ disease causes of now.

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Tags: autoimmune disorder, thyroid hormones, hyperthyroidism, thyroid hormone, behind the eye, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, thyroid gland, thyroiditis, vision loss, metabolism, Diseases, anatomy, thyroid, muscles, airway, vision, Cancer, action, glands
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