As with most autoimmune disorders, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of Graves’ disease—the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.
When you have an autoimmune disorder, such as Graves’ disease, your immune system mistakenly turns against your body.
Although researchers know very little about autoimmune diseases, here’s what we do know about what happens to your immune system when you have Graves’ disease: Your immune system creates antibodies called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSIs). These antibodies cause your thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone than your body needs.
TSIs attach to thyroid cell receptors—“docking stations” for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is a key thyroid hormone. It’s responsible for telling the thyroid to create thyroid hormones. But when you have Graves’ disease, the TSIs “trick” the thyroid gland into over-producing thyroid hormone, which causes hyperthyroidism.
Other Graves’ Disease Causes
Although researchers are still investigating what triggers this autoimmune response, some researchers think that the cause of Graves’ disease may be tied to your family history.
Because Graves’ disease may have a genetic link, that means if you have a family member with Graves’ disease, then you’re more likely to develop it, too.
Another risk factor that makes you more prone to developing Graves’ disease is your gender. As with other autoimmune conditions, Graves’ disease is more likely to affect women than men.
Graves’ is most common in women older than 20 years old. However, people of any age—including men—can have Graves’ disease.1
Research On Other Possible Causes of Graves’ Disease
As for other causes of Graves’ disease, researchers are working hard to determine other possible causes of this condition. For example, researchers are looking to identify the specific genes involved in triggering Graves’ disease.
If you think you could have Graves’ disease or you have questions about Graves’ disease causes, have a conversation with your doctor immediately. The more quickly you are treated for Graves’ disease, the easier it is to manage Graves’ disease symptoms.