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Hyperthyroidism – Grave’s Disease 

Proptosis and lid retraction are features of  Grave's disease, or hyperthyroidism. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Proptosis and Lid Retraction are Features of Grave’s Disease, or Hyperthyroidism.

What Is Grave’s Disease (Hyperthyroidism)?

Grave’s disease, or hyperthyroidism, is an autoimmune thyroid disease characterized by diffuse nontender goiter, elevated thyroxine hormone levels (T4, T3), suppressed thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and presence of thyroid receptor antibodies in the blood.

The autoantibodies involved are anti-thyroid peroxidase and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. They bind to the thyroid stimulating hormone receptors, causing thyroid stimulation. These antibodies are detected by blood tests.

Q: What happens to the thyroid gland in Grave’s disease?

A: The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck. This butterfly shaped gland consists of a large number of closed vesicles that contain a homogenous substance called colloid, which contains the thyroglobulin. Thyroglobulin is an iodine-containing protein secreted by the thyroid gland and stored within its colloid, from which the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroinine (T3) are derived.1

Thyroxine molecule, chemical structure. Thyroid gland hormone that plays a role in energy metabolism regulation. It is a iodine containing derivative of thyrosine. Atoms are represented as spheres with conventional color coding: hydrogen (white), carbon (grey), oxygen (red), nitrogen (blue), iodine (purple).

Thyroxine molecule. Atoms are represented as spheres with conventional color coding: hydrogen (white), carbon (grey), oxygen (red), nitrogen (blue), iodine (purple).

T3 is the active hormone and is made from T4. Thyroid hormones are released into the bloodstream as needed to control metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight, and cholesterol levels.

Thyroid hormone production is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made by the pituitary gland in the brain. Normally, when thyroid hormone levels in the blood are low, the pituitary releases more TSH in response to stimulation by the nearby hypothalamus which is continually monitoring levels of thyroxin. When thyroid hormone levels are high, the pituitary decreases TSH production. So in Grave’s disease, release of TSH by the pituitary gland is suppressed by the hypothalamus because thyroid hormone is elevated. Goiter develops from growth stimulation by thyroid stimulating autoantibodies.

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  1. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. 19th ed. F.A. Davis Company. Philadelphia, PA. 

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