Although anyone can develop Graves' disease, a number of factors can increase the risk of disease. These risk factors include the following:

  • Family history. Because a family history of Graves' disease is a known risk factor, there is likely a gene or genes that can make a person more susceptible to the disorder.
  • Gender. Women are much more likely to develop Graves' disease than are men.
  • Age. Graves' disease usually develops in people younger than 40.
  • Other autoimmune disorders. People with other disorders of the immune system, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, have an increased risk.
  • Emotional or physical stress. Stressful life events or illness may act as a trigger for the onset of Graves' disease among people who are genetically susceptible.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy or recent childbirth may increase the risk of the disorder, particularly among women who are genetically susceptible.
  • Smoking. Cigarette smoking, which can affect the immune system, increases the risk of Graves' disease. The degree of risk is linked to the number of cigarettes smoked daily — the larger the number, the greater the risk. Smokers who have Graves' disease are also at increased risk of developing Graves' ophthalmopathy.
Jul. 07, 2011