Graves’ Disease Symptoms

There are numerous symptoms of Graves’ disease—an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid gland to over-produce thyroid hormone, which is known as hyperthyroidism.

Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, so some Graves’ disease symptoms are the same as hyperthyroidism symptoms. However, people with Graves’ disease may also have other symptoms not related to hyperthyroidism.

It can be a challenge to detect Graves’ disease early on. In fact, Graves’ disease is sometimes confused with other conditions, which can make it very difficult to diagnose. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

Common Graves’ disease symptoms are:

  • anxiety
  • bulging eyes
  • chest pain
  • difficulty sleeping and/or insomnia
  • elevated blood pressure
  • fatigue
  • hand tremors
  • increased sweating
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • irritability or nervousness
  • more frequent stools and/or diarrhea
  • muscle weakness
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • restlessness
  • sensitivity to heat
  • shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing
  • unexplained weight loss (typically despite an increase in appetite)
  • vision problems or changes

In addition to these symptoms, if Graves’ disease isn’t treated, other symptoms can develop.

Eye problems: Graves’ disease is the only type of hyperthyroidism that involves inflammation of the eyes and bulging eyes. The specific eye disease associated with Graves’ disease is known as Graves’ orbitopathy or Graves’ ophthalmopathy.

Eye problems that are sometimes related to Graves’ disease can be anywhere from mild to extremely severe. In more mild cases, your eyes may become red and inflamed. Or they may tear or be very sensitive to light.

In severe cases, Graves’ disease can cause inflammation of the eye muscles. The muscles and tissues of the eyes may become swollen and may cause your eyes to protrude from their sockets. This is called exophthalmos.

Goiter: A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that can cause the front of the neck to look swollen. Goiters related to Graves’ disease are called diffuse thyrotoxic goiters. These goiters can be small lumps or they can be large. A goiter can make swallowing difficult. If it’s big enough, it can also cause you to cough and may make it more difficult for you to sleep.

Skin problems: In rare cases, Graves’ disease can cause you to develop lumpy reddish patches and thickening of the skin of the shin. This skin condition is called pretibial myxedema. Although it may look severe, it’s usually painless and is not serious.

It’s important to note that although some people with Grave’s disease will have many of these symptoms, not everyone with Graves’ disease will experience symptoms—at least in the early stages of the condition.

If you think you could have Graves’ disease and you have many of the Graves’ disease symptoms in this article, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Be sure to watch your symptoms closely so that your doctor can make an accurate diagnosis.

View Sources

Sources

  • Graves’ disease. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service Web site. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/graves/. Published May 2008. Accessed May 2, 2011.
  • Graves’ disease. American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org/patients/brochures/Graves_brochure.pdf. Published 2005. Accessed May 2, 2011.