Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system makes antibodies known as thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI). These antibodies attach to the cells of the thyroid. They then imitate thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which causes the thyroid to make more thyroid-stimulating hormone than the body needs.
When Graves’ disease develops, experts say that these antibodies can block the body’s thyroid hormone production. Consequently, Graves’ disease is said to be the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormone than the body needs. Unfortunately, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism can look like other health problems, so it can be misdiagnosed.
In general, the thyroid gland is an important body regulator. It’s like a thermostat of sorts, keeping the body in balance. So when the thyroid becomes overactive, as in this case of Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism develops.
Risk Factors of Graves' Disease
Though anyone can develop Graves’ disease, it’s most common among women. In fact, women are five to 10 times more likely to develop this condition than men.
In addition, a number of other factors can increase the risk of Graves’ disease. The first is family history. That’s because genes may play a role in just who develops this disorder.