Graves' disease, also known as toxic diffuse goiter, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. Hyperthyroidism is a disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormone than the body needs.
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck below the larynx, or voice box. The thyroid gland makes two thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones affect metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight, and cholesterol levels.
Thyroid hormone production is regulated by another hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made by the pituitary gland located in the brain.
Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body's immune system acts against its own healthy cells and tissues. In Graves' disease, the immune system makes antibodies called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) that attach to thyroid cells. TSI mimics the action of TSH and stimulates the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. Sometimes, antibodies can instead block thyroid hormone production, leading to a confusing clinical picture. The diagnosis and treatment of Graves' disease is often performed by an endocrinologist-a doctor who specializes in the body's hormone-secreting glands.
This answer is based on source information from the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service.
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