Graves’ Disease in Children, Teens, and Adults

Autoimmune Graves' disease produces hyperthyroidism. It causes hyperthyroidism in 1 in 200 Americans. Patients are usually diagnosed between 18 and 30. Yet, Graves' disease can also strike infants and the elderly.

Although the majority of Graves' disease symptoms, such as a high heart rate, sleeplessness, hand tremors, and weight loss, are consistent across the lifespan, a person's developmental phase and other medical disorders might hide the existence of Graves' or make it more likely that Graves' will be mistaken for another ailment.

Graves' Symptoms?

Graves’ illness and hyperthyroidism share similar symptoms.

Symptoms include −

  • fast heartbeat (tachycardia)

  • heat sensitivity/intolerance

  • weight loss insomnia and fatigue

  • anxiousness, irritability

  • weak muscles

  • goiter (thyroid swelling)

  • repeated bowel motions

  • erratic cycles

  • difficulties conceiving

Graves’ Illness Causes?

Antibodies help your immune system fight viruses and germs. However, in Graves' illness, your immune system attacks healthy tissues and cells. Your immune system manufactures thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins instead of antibodies in Graves' illness. Antibodies target your healthy thyroid cells.

Scientists know that humans can inherit antibodies against their own healthy cells. Graves' disease's cause and susceptibility are unknown. Experts think your genes and a virus or other trigger may cause it.

Graves' Disease and Other Kidney Disorders in Children and Teens

Graves' illness affects only 1 in 100,000 children. The typical onset age is 12.5.

Hyperthyroidism in the family increases the risk of Graves' disease in children. Most Graves' disease kids have one or more of the following: Down syndrome, type 1 diabetes, asthma, or vitiligo.

Almost half of the kids with Graves' illness also develop an eye disorder called Graves' ophthalmopathy (also known as thyroid eye disease, or TED). They might seem like they can't focus, have dilated pupils, or are staring. In mild cases of Graves' ophthalmopathy, eye drops and other lubricants are usually sufficient, but in more severe cases, steroids and surgical decompression of the orbit may be required.

Graves' illness can cause considerable delays in puberty and other aspects of physical development in young people, making early identification and treatment essential. Graves' disease in children should be managed by a pediatric endocrinologist.

Hyperthyroidism in adolescents of both sexes can cause weight loss, tiredness, reduced vision, difficulty focusing in school, heart palpitations, mood swings, insomnia, and intolerance to heat. Teenage girls are more likely to have irregular periods. Parents may misdiagnose Graves' disease in children as ADHD or substance addiction.

Help for Kids of All Ages

Graves' disease in children and teenagers is typically treated initially with antithyroid medications (ATDs). Thyroid hormone production is blocked by these medications. Due to its liver toxicity (Tapazole), propylthiouracil is less typically given to children than methimazole. Antithyroid medications can cause rashes, especially in teens and young adults.

If your antithyroid-treated youngster has a sore throat, mouth sores, or fever, call the doctor. These symptoms indicate an uncommon side effect of antithyroid medications: suppression of white blood cells, which fight infections. ATD-treated children have a lower remission rate than adults, and the best results may not be seen until years later.

Ablation using radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) can completely correct the hyperactivity of the thyroid gland, and it is an option for older children and children who have reactions to ATDs. Patients who have RAI treatment often develop hypothyroidism and require lifelong medication with synthetic thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Surgery for hyperthyroidism is less common in children because of the higher risk of anaesthetic problems. Your child's surgeon or doctor may advise against surgery if it poses a risk to the vocal cords or parathyroid glands (which control calcium levels in the body).

Graves' Disease in the Young and Middle-aged

Graves' disease typically affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50. Some pregnant women get Graves' disease. In the year before to the onset of symptoms, as many as 30% of young women with Graves' condition were pregnant. One in every 1,500 expectant mothers is affected by this.

Extreme stress or trauma might bring on symptoms of Graves' disease in adults. Those who already suffer from Graves' disease may notice an exacerbation of their symptoms if they experience additional stress.

Common treatments for adults in their twenties and thirties include radioactive iodine therapy, surgery, and antithyroid medications.

Disease of the Elderly Graves

0.5–4% of seniors have hyperthyroidism. Tremors, anxiety, palpitations, weight loss, and heat sensitivity affect both older and younger persons. Some people have few hyperthyroidism symptoms, which can delay diagnosis and treatment.

Elderly people feel weariness and weakness from Graves' disease. Disease-related bone loss in the elderly accelerates osteoporosis and fractures. Hyperthyroidism triples hip and spine fractures in women over 65.

The severity of Graves' disease and any coexisting medical concerns will determine the range of treatment choices available to people of advanced age. Radioactive iodine therapy helps many older people, but 80% develop hypothyroidism and need thyroid hormone replacement.

Antithyroid drugs can also treat Graves' disease, however they can drop white blood cell counts and be harmful for the elderly.

Graves' Illness Treatment?

Graves' illness has mainly two treatments −

  • Antithyroid medications

  • radioactive iodine thyroid surgery

These treatments may be suggested by your care team.


Due to the higher risk of complications, elderly people rarely undergo surgery. Graves' disease is curable, however treatment varies by patient.

Updated on: 10-May-2023


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