A goitre is caused by the enlargement of the thyroid gland, which produces a swelling on the neck. It occurs when the thyroid is struggling to produce enough thyroid hormone for the body's needs, either because of insufficient dietary iodine or because the thyroid gland is under attack from the body's immune system. In these circumstances the pituitary gland stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroxine, causing it to enlarge. Graves' disease can also cause a goitre, although in this instance too much thyroid hormone is being produced.
Graves' disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to produce excess levels of thyroid hormones. It can cause goitre and bulging eyeballs which are commonly associated with an overactive thyroid. It is named after Robert Graves who described it in 1835.
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