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What Should I Know about Graves’ Disease?

March 23, 2023
David Parker, Esq.
David Parker, White Plains and New City NY Estate Planning Attorney
David Parker, Esq.
David Parker is an attorney who specializes in Estate Planning and Elder Law and has been practicing law for 30 years. Be it Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, or Medicaid Planning, David provides comprehensive and caring counsel for seniors and their families. A large portion of David’s practice is asset protection strategies so that families do not lose their hard earned savings to nursing home care costs. He also handles probate administration for the settlement of estates.
Graves' disease is one of the causes of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). It's caused by an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland that leads to the overproduction of thyroid hormones.

Graves' disease is diagnosed from its symptoms, a physical exam and blood tests. Imaging tests may also be required.

Verywell Health’s recent article entitled What Is Graves' Disease?” explains that treatment, including anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) and (rarely) surgery, can alleviate symptoms. If you have Graves' disease, you may also need treatment for symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Graves' disease is connected to several symptoms that are the same as symptoms of any type of hyperthyroidism. There are a number of symptoms specific to Graves' disease. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism (due to any cause) include:

  • Weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Increased sweating/heat intolerance
  • Shaking hands
  • Diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
  • Increased appetite (sometimes decreased appetite)
  • Thinning hair
  • Fertility problems
  • Menstrual-cycle changes; and
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).

Graves' disease and other causes of hyperthyroidism are frequently linked to a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland). Here are some additional symptoms that commonly occur with Graves' disease but not other types of hyperthyroidism:

  • Graves' ophthalmopathy: Also called Graves' orbitopathy, this can result in "bulging eyes,” and can cause pressure around the eyes, sensitive eyes and decreased vision. This impacts about a third of those with Graves'. It’s caused by swelling due to the autoimmune process behind the disease.
  • Skin lesions: Thyroid dermopathy, also known as Graves' dermopathy, can cause a thickening of the skin, swelling and severe itching. In some instances, thyroid dermopathy can progress to a condition called acropachy, which is characterized by deformities of the fingers and toes.

If your Graves' disease is not adequately treated, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and heart disease can develop.

Reference: Verywell Health (Aug. 29, 2022) What Is Graves' Disease?”

Suggested Key Terms: Senior Health, Graves' Disease

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