Graves' Disease (cont.)
In this Article
- Graves' disease facts*
- What is Graves' disease?
- What are the symptoms of Graves' disease?
- Who gets Graves' disease?
- What causes Graves' disease?
- How do I find out if I have Graves' disease?
- How is Graves' disease treated?
- What could happen if Graves' disease is not treated?
- Does pregnancy affect the thyroid?
- Do I need a thyroid test if I become pregnant?
- I have Graves' disease and want to have a baby. What should I do before I try to become pregnant?
- How is Graves' disease managed during pregnancy?
- Can I breastfeed if I am taking antithyroid medicine for Graves' disease?
- For more information about Graves' disease
- Find a local Endocrinologist in your town
What causes Graves' disease?
Many factors are thought to play a role in getting Graves' disease. These might include:
- Genes. Some people are prone to Graves' disease because of their
Researchers are working to find the gene or genes involved.
- Gender. Sex hormones might play a role, and might explain why Graves'
disease affects more women than men.
- Stress. Severe emotional stress or trauma might trigger the onset of
Graves' disease in people who are prone to getting it.
- Pregnancy. Pregnancy affects the thyroid. As many as 30 percent of young
women who get Graves' disease have been pregnant in the 12 months prior to the
onset of symptoms. This suggests that pregnancy might trigger Graves' disease in
- Infection. Infection might play a role in the onset of Graves' disease, but no studies have shown infection to directly cause Graves' disease.
How do I find out if I have Graves' disease?
Most people with Graves' disease have symptoms that are bothersome. If you have symptoms of Graves' disease, your doctor will do an exam and order one or more tests. Tests used to help find out if you have Graves' disease include:
- Thyroid function tests. A blood sample is sent to a lab to see if your body
has the right amount of thyroid hormone (T4) and TSH. A high level of thyroid
hormone in the blood plus a low level of TSH is a sign of overactive thyroid.
Sometimes, routine screening of thyroid function reveals mild overactive thyroid
in a person without symptoms. In such cases, doctors might suggest treatment or
watchful waiting to see if levels return to normal.
- Radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU). An RAIU tells how much iodine the thyroid
takes up. The thyroid takes up iodine and uses it to make thyroid hormone. A
high uptake suggests Graves' disease. This test can be helpful in ruling out
other possible causes of overactive thyroid.
- Antibody tests. A blood sample is sent to a lab to look for antibodies that suggest Graves' disease.
Graves' disease can be hard to diagnose during pregnancy because it has many of the same symptoms as normal pregnancy, like fatigue and heat intolerance. Also, some lab tests can be harder to interpret. Plus, doctors cannot use RAIU during pregnancy to rule out other causes.
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