Skin Problems

In rare instances, Graves' disease can affect the skin and cause Graves' dermopathy. The condition develops as a result of a buildup of protein in the skin.

The two most common types of skin problems are pretibial myxedema (PTM) and thyroid acropachy. People who develop PTM will develop a thickening of the skin, usually on the front of the lower leg or on the tops of the feet. The affected area resembles an orange peel, and may appear as raised patches of pink skin. PTM occurs in less than 5 percent of Graves' patients — mostly women. It is primarily a cosmetic problem and is usually treated with steroid creams.

Thyroid acropachy is even rarer than PTM and occurs in just 1 percent of people with Graves' disease. With thyroid acropachy, the hands and fingers develop a clublike appearance. Occasionally, the toes are involved, too. The condition is more common in people who develop PTM and in people who smoke.

Treatment of hyperthyroidism in Graves' disease usually helps reduce both skin conditions.

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