Graves disease is an autoimmune disease. The immune system normally protects the body from germs with chemicals called antibodies. But with an autoimmune disease, it makes antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues. With Graves disease, antibodies cause the thyroid gland to make too much thyroid hormone. This is known as hyperthyroidism. Extra thyroid hormone in the bloodstream leads to the body's metabolism being too active. It can cause problems such as low weight, fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, and heart failure.
Graves disease occurs more often in children than in newborns. But it can also occur in newborn babies. If not diagnosed shortly after birth, Graves disease can be fatal to a newborn baby.Graves disease in a newborn occurs when the mother has or had Graves disease. The mother’s antibodies can cross the placenta and affect the thyroid gland in the growing baby. Graves disease in a pregnant woman can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, or preterm birth.The biggest risk factor for Graves disease in a newborn is when the mother has or had Graves disease. But not all newborns born to mothers with Graves disease will have the disorder.
Signs can occur a bit differently in each baby. They can include:
- Low birth weight
- Small or abnormally shaped head
- Poor weight gain (failure to thrive)
- Enlarged liver and spleen
- Swelling of the front of the neck due to large thyroid (goiter)
- Fast heartbeat, which can lead to heart failure
- Warm, moist skin
- High blood pressure
- Trouble sleeping
- Bulging eyes
- Trouble breathing if a goiter is pressing on the windpipe
The signs of Graves disease can be like other health conditions. Make sure your baby sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.If not diagnosed shortly after birth, Graves disease can be fatal to a newborn baby. The healthcare provider will ask about your baby’s signs and health history. He or she may also ask about the birth mother’s health history. He or she will give your baby a physical exam. Your baby may also have a blood test to check the level of thyroid hormone and the level of the pituitary hormone. This hormone normally stimulates the thyroid.
With treatment right away, babies usually recover fully within a few weeks. But Graves disease may recur during the first 6 months to 1 year of life. The goal of treatment is to restore the thyroid gland to normal function so it makes normal levels of thyroid hormone.
Treatment may include:
- Medicine that blocks the production of thyroid hormones and treats rapid heart rate
- Treatment for heart failure
Untreated Graves disease in a newborn can be fatal. It can also cause:
- Early closing of bones in the skull
- Intellectual disability
- Fast growth that slows and then stops early, leading to short height
- Graves disease is an autoimmune disease. With Graves disease, antibodies cause the thyroid gland to make too much thyroid hormone. This is known as hyperthyroidism.
- Excess thyroid hormone in the bloodstream leads to the body's metabolism being too active. It can cause problems such as low weight, fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart failure, and other issues.
- Graves disease in a newborn occurs when the mother has or had Graves disease. It can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, or preterm birth.
- If not diagnosed shortly after birth, Graves disease can be fatal to a newborn baby.
- With treatment right away, babies usually recover fully within a few weeks. However, Graves disease may recur during the first 6 months to 1 year of life.
- Treatment may include medicine and other treatment.
- A pregnant woman who had or has Graves disease needs to tell her healthcare provider as soon as she knows she is pregnant. This is so their baby can be checked at birth and treated right away if needed.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
May 24, 2018
Evaluation and management of neonatal Graves' disease. UpToDate., Clinical Manifestations and Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism in Children and Adolescents. UpToDate., Evaluation and Management of Neonatal Graves' Disease. UpToDate
Hurd, Robert, MD,Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN