Graves' disease affects 2 percent of all women at some point. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States, this autoimmune disorder can affect not only the thyroid, but the eyes and skin as well. Common symptoms include weight loss, increased sweating, and trouble sleeping. Treatment will vary, depending on your specific situation, but may include medication, radioiodine therapy, or surgery.
What Is Graves' Disease?
Graves' disease is a type of autoimmune condition. It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism (also known as overactive thyroid) in the United States. Graves' disease can also affect the eyes (known as ophthalmopathy) and occasionally the skin (dermopathy).
Graves' disease is more common in women, affecting 2 percent of all women at some point in their lives. It tends to affect women between the ages of 20 and 40. It can also affect males, infants, children, and the elderly.
Understanding the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is about two inches in length. It is located in the front of the neck below the larynx (voice box) and above the clavicles (collarbones). It is made up of two lobes, one on either side of the windpipe.
The thyroid gland makes two thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones affect metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight, and cholesterol levels.
Thyroid hormone production (both T3 and T4) is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made by the pituitary gland. Located in the brain, the pituitary gland is the "master gland" of the endocrine system.
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