Your Guide to Thyroid Disease

This content is created by Healthgrades and brought to you by an advertising sponsor. More

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the Healthgrades advertising policy.

7 Ways Graves' Disease Affects Your Body

  • Unseen woman holding ice or heat pack on her eyes
    Graves’ Disease Symptoms
    About one in 200 people develop Graves’ disease, and it’s more common in women than men. When you have Graves’ disease, your body produces more thyroid hormone than it needs. Thyroid hormone is powerful. Too much of it can affect everything from eyesight to fertility to heart health to bone strength. Graves’ disease isn’t the only cause of hyperthyroidism, but it’s the most common cause in the United States. Know what can happen when Graves’ disease isn’t well controlled.
  • gettyimages 74957233
    1. Eye Inflammation
    Graves’ disease can cause inflammation in the eye sockets that makes eyes bulge, leading to irritation and vision problems. This complication is called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, Graves’ eye disease, or thyroid eye disease, and up to half of people with Graves’ disease have it. If you smoke, quitting can help. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, treatment may include eyedrops, medication, special eyeglasses, radiation therapy, or surgery. It’s important to treat thyroid eye disease to avoid nerve damage and vision loss. Ask your doctor about your options.
  • couple-having-discussion-on-couch
    2. Fertility Problems
    When you have Graves’ disease, your thyroid hormone level is higher than normal. This can cause a woman’s periods to become lighter than usual or irregular. Ovulation may not happen each month, which makes it harder to get pregnant. Difficulty conceiving is a problem for about half of women with Graves’ disease. The condition can also damage men’s sperm. Treating Graves’ disease can help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and improve fertility for both women and men.
  • African American pregnant woman in hospital gown sitting on hospital bed holding stomach
    3. Pregnancy Complications
    Graves’ disease can cause problems for pregnant women and their babies if it’s not in good control. Pregnancy complications can include: pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus), miscarriage, and stillbirth. Effects on the baby can include low birth weight and birth defects. Ask your doctor to add an endocrinologist to your healthcare team for regular thyroid level checks. Medication that’s safe to take during pregnancy can be prescribed if needed.
  • Female nurse using stethoscope on senior woman
    4. Heart Conditions
    Graves’ disease can affect your heart if left unchecked. It can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, including an extremely fast heartbeat (tachycardia) or an irregular, erratic heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). Both make the heart work harder and can lead to chest pain and heart failure. Your doctor may prescribe beta blockers to slow rapid heartbeat while the underlying hyperthyroidism is being addressed. This type of medication can also ease the nervousness and trembling many people with Graves’ disease experience.
  • black or african american woman with wrist pain
    5. Osteoporosis
    Hyperthyroidism can affect your bones in two ways. First, it can interfere with the absorption of calcium, which your bones need to stay strong. Second, it can cause an imbalance in the natural cycle of bone loss and replacement, where more bone is lost than replaced. Both scenarios can lead to osteoporosis, which makes bones weak, brittle, and easy to break. The wrist, hip, and vertebrae in the spine are common sites for osteoporosis fracture.
  • swollen feet
    6. Skin Issues
    Some people with Graves’ disease develop Graves’ dermopathy, also called pretibial myxedema, where the skin on the shins or tops of the feet becomes thick, red, coarse, and lumpy. Most people who have Graves’ dermopathy also have Graves’ eye disease. Graves’ dermopathy usually isn’t painful, but it’s a sign your thyroid levels aren’t well controlled. If you experience it, let your doctor know so you can revisit your treatment plan. Cortisone ointments or injections to reduce swelling may be recommended.
  • first-aid-on-floor
    7. Thyroid Storm
    Thyroid storm occurs when the amount of thyroid hormone in the body suddenly spikes to a toxic level. The condition is also called accelerated hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxic crisis. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, extremely low blood pressure, seizure, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Thyroid storm is rare but life-threatening. Seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms. Working with your doctor proactively to keep your condition in good control will help reduce your risk of such an extreme event.
Graves’ Disease Symptoms | Graves’ Disease & Your Body

About The Author

Evelyn Creekmore has more than 15 years of experience writing online educational health content, including nearly 10 years full-time at WebMD, where she was the director of brand content. She holds an MPH in Applied Public Health Informatics from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and an MA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
  1. What are the dermatologic manifestations of Graves disease? Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/answers/121865-25225/what-are-the-dermatologic-manifestations-of-graves-disease
  2. Graves disease. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/graves-disease/#:~:text=Graves%20disease%20affects%20about%201,hyperthyroidism)%20in%20the%20United%20States.
  3. Graves disease. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/graves-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20356240
  4. Grave’s disease. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/graves-disease
  5. Preeclampsia. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355745
  6. Placental abruption. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/placental-abruption/symptoms-causes/syc-20376458
  7. Hyperthyroidism and your heart. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-disease-overview/hyperthyroidism-and-your-heart
  8. Graves’ Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/graves-disease
  9. Your guide to thyroid disorders and osteoporosis. British Thyroid Foundation. https://www.btf-thyroid.org/thyroid-disorders-and-osteoporosis
Was this helpful?
22
Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 11
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.