An American talk show host recently announced that she’d been diagnosed with Graves disease, but what is it, exactly?

According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, 1 in every 100 Canadians are diagnosed with Graves disease. Graves disease, named after the doctor who first discovered the condition – Robert J. Graves – is an autoimmune disorder that occurs as a result of the thyroid gland being over-stimulated, which creates antibodies that then producing too much of the thyroid-stimulating immunoglobins, also known as TSIs. It’s also often the underlying cause for hyperthyroidism. While Graves disease can affect anyone, it tends to be more common in women over the age of 40.

Early signs and symptoms of Graves disease often mimic those of other illnesses, which can sometimes make diagnosing Graves disease a challenge. However, the more common signs and symptoms of Graves disease include:

• Weight loss
• Decreased appetite
• Restlessness
• Insomnia
• Anxiety
• Irritability
• Tremors
• Heat intolerance
• Sweating
• Chest pain
• Heart palpitations
• Shortness of breath
• Trouble breathing
• Muscle weakness
• Skin problems
• Irregular menstrual periods
• Increased stool frequency
• Vision problems
• Bulging eyes

If left untreated, Graves disease can lead to serious health complications such as thyrotoxicosis, heart problems, brittle bones, and even death, so if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends speaking to your family physician as soon as possible.

The most common test used to diagnose Graves disease is a thyroid function test, though physicians may also send patients for other testing to rule out any other medical conditions. When it comes to the treatment of Graves disease treatment depends on the patient and can include anti-thyroid medication, beta blockers, and in some cases even surgery.