Graves’ disease

Diagnosis and symptoms | Therapy | Counselling

The most common form of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is caused by a disease of the immune system, called Graves’ disease. It’s an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. In Graves’ disease, a receptor on the thyroid cell is not recognized by our immune system as being generated by the body itself. Antibodies are then produced (autoantibodies = anti-TSH Ab, anti-Tg Ab), which activate the receptor and lead to excessive hormone formation.

Diagnosis and symptoms

Typical symptoms are restlessness, rapid heartbeat, weight loss, sleep disorders and diarrhoea (= symptoms of hyperthyroidism). The disease often causes the eyeballs to protrude prominently, a symptom known as exophthalmos. There is also sometimes visible or palpable enlargement of the thyroid gland. An ultrasound examination and thyroid scintigraphy are the determining examinations.

The right treatment

The treatment of a first flare of Graves’ disease involves suppressing thyroid function by means of drugs, which often produces a temporary normalization of thyroid function. However, these drugs are not suitable for suppressing thyroid function over many years because they sometimes cause severe unwanted side effects. These thyrostatics, as they are known, should be discontinued after about 6 months of treatment. Only if the hyperactivity recurs following discontinuation of the drugs does the thyroid tissue have to be removed completely, since otherwise the autoimmune reaction cannot be interrupted.

Surgery is particularly suitable in the case of associated exophthalmos, an enlarged thyroid gland and in female patients wishing to have children. Alternatively, radiotherapy can be administered if the surgical risk is high.

We are happy to advise you personally

Our doctors have many years of experience and a high level of expertise in thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal surgery.