Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, and it’s the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Thyroid hormones regulate most processes in the human body, so Graves’ disease — or any other thyroid disorder — can cause a wide range of symptoms. Keep reading to find out how Graves’ disease is diagnosed.
How do you diagnose Graves’ disease?
In order to diagnose Graves’ disease, the first thing your healthcare provider will do is take a detailed personal and family history, record your symptoms, and perform a physical examination. If their findings are consistent with Graves’ disease or another type of hyperthyroidism, they may order different tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the exact cause of your symptoms.
Graves’ disease testing
Your doctor could order different blood tests for Graves’ disease diagnosis. Blood tests can be used to measure your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which as its name suggests, is a hormone that stimulates your thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones.
Another test can be used to determine the presence of thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI), which is an antibody that plays a role in Graves’ disease. Not everyone will need to get an antibody test to diagnose Graves’ disease, but this test can help rule out other possible causes of hyperthyroidism.
Graves’ disease TSH levels
Patients with Graves’ disease typically have levels of TSH that are lower than normal. That’s because your body will stop producing TSH in an attempt to compensate for elevated thyroid hormone (called triiodothyronine or T3, and thyroxine or T4) levels.
Radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU) test
The thyroid needs iodine to produce thyroid hormones. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a RAIU test involves taking a small amount of radioactive iodine. Then, a special device is used to measure the rate at which your thyroid is using that iodine. It may sound worrying to take radioactive iodine, but this substance only targets your thyroid cells and won’t affect your health.
Before a thyroid scan, you’ll usually get an injection of a radioactive substance called technetium. The scan will show your thyroid gland and its uptake pattern, allowing your doctor to see whether your thyroid is overactive.
A thyroid ultrasound can also be used to produce images of your thyroid and determine whether it’s enlarged. However, a regular ultrasound can’t identify your thyroid’s uptake pattern, which is essential to determine the cause of your hyperthyroidism. A thyroid ultrasound can be helpful for patients who can’t take radioactive materials, such as pregnant women.
Do I have Graves’ disease?
In some cases, your doctor could suspect Graves’ disease simply based on your personal and family history, risk factors, and your symptoms. But in other cases, it can be difficult to determine whether your symptoms are caused by Graves’ or another thyroid disorder.
According to the American Thyroid Association, a diagnosis of Graves’ disease is more likely if you have the characteristic signs of the disease, including Graves’ eye disease and/or dermopathy, an enlarged thyroid gland or goiter, and a family history of the disease or other autoimmune disorders.
Graves’ disease - mayoclinic.org
Graves’ Disease - my.clevelandclinic.org
Graves’ Disease - thyroid.org