Is Grave's Disease An Autoimmune Disease?

Grave’s disease is certainly an autoimmunity disorder in which the thyroid gland is likely to produce too much thyroxin hormone and leads to hyperthyroidism. The underlying cause of Grave’s disease is hyperthyroidism. And like many other auto immunity disorders, women are more affected by this disease rather than men due to some unknown reasons.

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Is Grave's Disease An Autoimmune Disease?

What Do We Mean By Auto-Immune Disease?

In an auto immune disease the immune system erroneously starts attacking our body. The immunity of our body is supposed to fight against antigens like viruses and bacteria. These antigens are foreign invaders and our immune system manufactures antibodies against them. Generally our immunity knows the difference between our body cells and foreign invaders, but in certain cases it starts treating our own body tissues like the joints or skin as outsiders. Then the immune system releases auto antibodies, which start attacking the healthy cells of the body. Some auto immune disease attack only a single organ like for example in Type 1 Diabetes only the pancreas is damaged while in the case of Lupus disease whole of the body is affected.

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Some other examples of auto immune disease includes: Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriasis, Multiple sclerosis, Systemic lupus Erythematosus, Inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s disease and Graves’ disease.

Anatomy of Grave’s Disease as Auto Immune Disease

In Grave’s disease the immune system attacks the thyroid gland which is present at the neck and causes it to produce too much of thyroxin hormone. Thyroid gland is also known as the master gland of the body and the hormones released by it are very essential for regulating the metabolism of the body. When these hormones are released in excessive quantity they hike up the body’s normal functioning and produce symptoms like tachycardia, nervousness, weight loss and heat intolerance.

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While the above are the general symptoms of Grave’s disease, the most prominent symptoms include bulging eyes in which the eyes appear protruded outwards. This condition is known as Exophthalmos. Around 50% of the people suffering from Grave’s disease suffer from bulging eyes.

Physical Symptoms of Grave’s Disease

Grave’s disease can be acute or chronic. If it is left untreated for a very long time then some irreversible physical changes may develop in the body.

Goiter: it is a condition in which the thyroid gland enlarges in size. When this condition is induced due to Grave’s disease it is known as Thyrotoxic Goiter. As the gland enlarges in size, the neck of the patients appears to look bulky and bloated up. The swollen neck sometimes makes the patient feel uncomfortable, difficulty in swallowing, coughing and insomnia.

Graves’ Ophthalmopathy: There are number of eye diseases and problems which are induced with Grave’s diseases. Some problems may be simple and less annoying but they can become severe from mild if ignored or left untreated. Some common symptoms which should be considered seriously include, reddening of eyes, irritation in the eyes, sensitivity to the light etc.

Bulging Eyes: Grave’s disease also induces Bulging eyes or exophthalmos, which is considered as a severe case. In this condition one or both the eyes appear protruding outside from the orbits of the eyes. This is due to the inflammation of the eye muscles and tissues caused by Grave’s disease. The eye orbit or the bony part of the eyes supports the eyes and keep them in place, but when the swollen muscles and tissues are pushed outwards, the eyes are protruded outwards and also the eye movements are restricted. It appears as if the patient is staring at you.

Thickening of Skin: In some cases, the skin of the patients gets thickened specially over the front part of the lower legs. Skin lesions and pink patches also appear in the legs. The other parts of the body are generally unaffected. This thickening of skin due to Grave’s disease is known as Pretibial Myxedema.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: April 16, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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