Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body’s defense system “mistakenly” attacks its own tissue, in this case mainly that of the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland (glandula thyroidea) is located on the front of the neck, below the larynx. The small gland produces the vital thyroid hormones, especially the hormone thyroxine (T4), which is then converted into triiodothyronine (T3) in the body. These hormones affect many body functions, including metabolism, circulation and psyche. To produce the hormones, the thyroid gland needs iodine, which we ingest with food.
In Graves’ disease, the body’s defense cells mistakenly form antibodies that bind to thyroid cells – more precisely, to the so-called TSH receptor on their surface. This drives the gland to produce thyroid hormones more intensively. Hyperthyroidism (hyperthyroidism) occurs. The thyroid gland works more than it should.
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism worldwide. It mainly affects people in middle age, women significantly more often than men. The disease is named after Carl Adolph von Basedow, who was the first to describe it in German. “Morbus” is the Latin word for disease. The also common English name “Graves’ Disease” goes back to the Irish first describer.