source: The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
What is Graves’ Disease?
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid. With this disease, your immune system attacks the thyroid and causes it to make more thyroid hormone than your body needs. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. Thyroid hormones control how your body uses energy, so they affect nearly every organ in your body—even the way your heart beats.
If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause serious problems with the heart, bones, muscles, menstrual cycle, and fertility. During pregnancy, untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to health problems for the mother and baby. Graves’ disease also can affect your eyes and skin.
How Common is Graves’ Disease?
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. The disease affects about 1 in 200 people.
Who is More Likely to Develop Graves’ Disease?
Graves’ disease usually affects people between ages 30 and 50, but can occur at any age. The disease is seven to eight times more common in women than men. A person’s chance of developing Graves’ disease increases if other family members have the disease.