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Thyroid Diseases

Testing for Inherited Thyroid Disorder

02/16/2006

Question:

I have a family history of graves disease and hyperthyroidism. I am 29 yrs old and so far have no signs. I am tested yearly for antibodies and thyroid hormone levels.

It seems as though all of the known family members with this disorder did not develop a goiter/enlarged thyroid, but had all the other symptoms that go along with it. Could this possibly mean that no one else who inherits this in my family down the line will develop a goiter either? I'd just like to know your opinion.

Thank you for any advice.

Answer:

Thyroid Diseaes Expert - Thomas Murphy, MD

A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. When a doctor feels the thyroid gland of a patient with Graves' disease, the gland typically feels enlarged. However, this doesn't necessarily have to be the case - especially early in the disease. Some of the people in your family who inherit Graves' disease may have goiters and some may not. I agree with your doctor that the best way to check to see if you are developing Graves' disease is to periodically check your blood tests. Periodically feeling the thyroid for signs of growth is also a good thing to do, but the blood test is more important.

Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects Expert - Anne Matthews, RN, PhD

From a genetics standpoint, Graves disease is one of the autoimmune thyroid disorders that it does run in families. The genetic cause of Graves disease and the other thyroid disorders involves a complex interaction between genetic predisposing factors (genes) and environmental triggering factors. A common feature of complex inheritance is that not all families need to show all of the major clinical features of the disease.

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Response by:

Thomas A Murphy, MD, FACP, FACE Thomas A Murphy, MD, FACP, FACE
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University