Graves’ disease is a form of autoimmune thyroiditis in which the thyroid gland is overstimulated, and the amount of hormones it releases increases. It is the number one cause of a hyperactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism. While Graves’ disease is a fairly common condition, it is 7-8 times more likely to appear in women than men.
Normally, the immune system produces antibodies which attack viruses, bacteria or otherwise irregular cells within the body. Occasionally, malfunction of the immune system can cause the antibodies to attack normal, healthy cells. This is known as autoimmune disease. However, in the case of Graves’ disease, the antibodies, known as thyroid stimulating hormone receptor antibodies (TRAb), do not attack healthy cells, but increase their activity. This increase in hormone activity can lead to an increased metabolic activity, characterized by rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking and weight loss.