Graves' Disease

Rush's nationally recognized thyroid disease specialists address all your concerns and offer minimally invasive treatments to help you heal faster.

Rush's nationally recognized thyroid disease specialists address all your concerns and offer minimally invasive treatments to help you heal faster.

Rush's nationally recognized thyroid disease specialists address all your concerns and offer minimally invasive treatments to help you heal faster.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to get bigger (form a goiter) and become overactive. The thyroid gland then makes too much thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism and possibly bulging eyes and skin problems.

Signs You Should Get Help for Graves’ Disease

Symptoms of Graves’ disease include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Feeling jittery or shaky
  • Palpitations (feeling your heart beating)
  • Enlarged thyroid gland in the neck (goiter)
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Insomnia
  • Bulging eyes
  • Eye irritation and tearing
  • Thick skin on your legs or feet (uncommon)

Individuals who smoke and have Graves’ disease are more likely to develop eye problems. Therefore, it is important to take steps to quit smoking if you are a smoker — or to not begin smoking — if you have been diagnosed with Graves’ disease.

See your primary care provider if you have these symptoms. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and order blood tests. If you have Graves’ disease, you will be referred to an endocrinologist – a hormone specialist.

Treatment of Graves’ Disease at Rush

If you are also having eye problems, your doctor may order a CT scan of your eyes with a referral to an eye doctor, if necessary.

Treatment is focused on stopping your overactive thyroid from producing too much thyroid hormone. Your endocrinologist may recommend the following:

  • Beta-blocker medication to decrease symptoms until your hyperthyroidism is under control
  • Antithyroid medication to reduce the amount of hormone your thyroid gland produces
  • Radioactive iodine to slow your body’s production of thyroid hormones
  • Thyroid surgery to remove your thyroid gland; surgery is rare

Rush Excellence in Graves’ Disease Care

  • Nationally recognized experts: The Rush endocrinology team includes members of the American Thyroid Association who are nationally recognized experts in the care of thyroid disease. Additionally, U.S. News & World Report ranked Rush University Medical Center among the best in the nation for endocrinology.
  • Minimally invasive surgery: Though rare, you may need surgery to treat Graves' disease that doesn't respond to standard treatment. At Rush, your providers will offer minimally invasive techniques for your thyroid surgery whenever possible. For you, this means smaller scars, faster healing and less pain.
  • Team-based approach: If Graves’ disease affects your eyes and skin, you may need to see multiple specialists at Rush. Your care team will work together to coordinate and personalize your care.