Graves' Disease & Graves' Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism refers to any condition in which too much thyroid hormone is produced in your body. Symptoms include:

  • Weight loss despite unchanged eating or exercise habits
  • Fast heart rate
  • Increased nervousness or irritability
  • Hair loss and increased growth of nails
  • Changes in your menstrual periods
  • Increased appetite or more frequent bowel movements
  • Visual changes (see below)

Graves’ Disease

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease (named after Irish doctor Robert Graves) is an autoimmune disorder. In affected people, the body makes antibodies, which attack the thyroid gland and also stimulate thyroid tissue to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone, causing the above listed symptoms. The thyroid gland may enlarge which is called a “goiter”.

Graves' Eye Disease/Ophthalmopathy

Some patients develop eye signs and symptoms (called Graves’ eye disease or ophthalmopathy). The eyes may became very dry, irritated and inflamed. The inflammation may affect your eye muscles and the tissue behind your eyes, causing double vision, bulging eyes and pressure or pain. More severe manifestations are less common, except in smokers.

Smoking & Graves' Disease

If you are a smoker with Graves’ disease or Graves’ eye disease it is very important that you stop smoking immediately as smoking can worsen your symptoms. If you need help with smoking cessation, please talk to your physician — he/she can help you. To get started, please find our helpful tips on smoking cessation.

What are the Treatment Options?

There are three general treatment strategies for Graves’ disease:

  • Medication: Medications have variable success, but often patients become resistant to medication treatment over time.
  • Surgery: While generally not the treatment of choice, surgical removal of the thyroid gland may be a treatment determined. This is more invasive and has common risks related to surgery.
  • Iodine Ablation of Thyroid Tissue: Ablation is the surgical removal of body tissue. Radioactive iodine is given as a pill that contains radiation within. Based on the results of your previous thyroid nuclear medicine studies and the estimated size of your thyroid gland, a dose will be calculated specifically for you. The physiology of the radioactive iodine pill is similar to the pill that is used for the uptake studies that have been done in the past.

Learn more about Graves' Disease and Radioactive Iodine Treatment

Download a PDF about Graves' Disease or Graves' Hyperthyroidism