Graves' Disease: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications

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Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that can cause hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Your thyroid secretes hormones that regulate your metabolism, which is how your body controls energy. If you have a high thyroid hormone level, many of your body's functions speed up. Fortunately, there are medications that can help control your thyroid activity and reduce the symptoms of Graves' disease.

This article reviews the common and rare symptoms of Graves' disease, as well as complications that may arise.

graves' disease symptoms edited

Emily Roberts / Verywell

Frequent Symptoms

Most of the signs and symptoms of Graves' disease are due to an overactive thyroid. They usually develop gradually over a period of weeks or months.

Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Trembling hands
  • Weakness in the muscles, especially of the hips and shoulders
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Overheating and increased sweating
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Eye issues, like inflamed, dry, or bulging eyes (Graves' ophthalmopathy)
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland that may cause swelling in the neck)
  • Unexplained weight loss

Rare Symptoms

Less common symptoms of Graves' disease include:

  • Graves' dermopathy (red, usually painless lumps typically on the shins)
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails

Some other less common symptoms that have been noted in people with Graves' disease include:

  • Periodic paralysis
  • Anemia (lack of healthy red blood cells)
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

Complications

Graves' disease can lead to some serious complications if it is not treated, including:

  • Sluggishness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision changes
  • Fertility and menstrual problems
  • Osteoporosis (decrease in bone mass that causes weak and brittle bones)
  • Stroke or heart failure

Contact a healthcare provider if you experience any of these complications or some of the more extreme symptoms of Graves' disease.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have symptoms of Graves' disease, contact a healthcare provider for an examination. It's important to get treatment for the condition to avoid further complications.

If you have Graves' disease and your symptoms worsen, are not improving with treatment, or your vision changes, call your provider.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have Graves' disease and experience:

  • Change in level of consciousness
  • Fever
  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat
  • Sudden shortness of breath

Summary

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that makes your thyroid gland overactive, putting your body into overdrive. Some common symptoms are rapid heartbeat, sensitivity to heat and increased sweating, eye irritation and bulging eyes, slight tremors in the hands, and irritability. Less frequent signs include red lumps on the shins, brittle nails, hair loss, vomiting, anemia, or jaundice.

If Graves' disease isn't treated, it can lead to heart problems, thinning bones, and reduced fertility or menstrual changes. If you have Graves' disease and feel like you may lose consciousness, have a very fast and irregular heartbeat, or find yourself short of breath, call 911 or go to the emergency room.

A Word From Verywell

If you are diagnosed with Graves' disease after experiencing symptoms, know that there are effective treatments available to help. People with Graves' disease usually respond well to treatment. Your healthcare provider can refer you to a specialist in hormonal diseases, called an endocrinologist, to aid with treatment measures.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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