Graves’ disease is one of the more common diseases in the U.S. with approximately 1.2% of the population susceptible to it at some point in their lives. It is the most common cause of thyrotoxicosis, that is an overactive thyroid gland. While it is more frequently found in women, it can affect men as well. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease, that is antibodies are formed against the thyroid gland and stimulate the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormone even when there is plenty of thyroid hormone in circulation.
TSH is Abnormally Low
Typically, the thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland which makes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to control your thyroid. But in Graves’ disease, antibodies stimulate the thyroid and the thyroid continues to produce thyroid hormone well in excess of normal levels. What you will typically see on lab tests is that the thyroid stimulating hormone, made by the brain, is very low because it senses that no more thyroid hormone is needed. Normal thyroid levels typically run between 0.5 and 4.5 for TSH, but in Graves’ disease we will see these levels go to nearly 0 in the worst cases.
Symptoms of Grave’s Disease
An overactive thyroid stimulated by Graves’ disease antibodies produces a whole host of symptoms. These can range from rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nervousness, anxiety, and basic jitteriness to a host of other symptoms. In fact, the list of thyroid symptoms from Graves’ disease is so long that I have put it into a separate list which you can see here. The large number of symptoms can make a patient feel a complete host of abnormal symptoms.
With Graves’, You are Not Yourself!
We always reassure Graves’ patients that they are not themselves when they are suffering from the ravages of Graves’ disease. The typical hyperthyroid patient has trouble thinking, has trouble concentrating and experiences a lot of emotional lability. It is not uncommon that in Graves’ disease a patient will be fine one moment and then upset, angry, or even crying the very next moment with very little stimulation. It is just so true that when you are suffering from Graves’ disease that you are not yourself. The good news is that with proper treatment you can get back to being yourself and enjoying the things that you did in the past. For roughly 30% of patients, Graves’ disease will spontaneously resolve typically over the course of 12-18 months. Sadly, for the remaining 70% the disease will not go away spontaneously, and definitive treatment would be necessary.