What Is Graves’ Disease?
disease is an autoimmune disorder. It causes your thyroid gland to create too
much thyroid hormone in the body. This condition is known as hyperthyroidism.
Graves’ disease is one of the most common forms of hyperthyroidism.
Graves’ disease, your immune system creates antibodies known as
thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins. These antibodies then attach to healthy
thyroid cells. They can cause your thyroid to create too much thyroid hormone.
hormones affect many aspects of your body. These can include your nervous
system function, brain development, body temperature, and other important
left untreated, hyperthyroidism may cause weight loss, emotional liability
(uncontrollable crying, laughing, or other emotional displays), depression, and
mental or physical fatigue.
What Are the Symptoms of
disease and hyperthyroidism share many of the same symptoms. These symptoms may
- hand tremors
- weight loss
- rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
- intolerance to heat
- muscle weakness
- goiter (swelling in the thyroid gland)
- diarrhea or increased frequency in bowel movements
- difficulty sleeping
small percentage of people with Graves’ disease will experience reddened,
thickened skin around the shin area. This is a condition called Graves’
symptom you may experience is known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy. This occurs when
your eyes may seem enlarged as a result of your eyelids retracting. When this
happens, your eyes may begin to bulge from your eye sockets. The National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that up
to 30 percent of people who develop Graves’ disease will get a mild case of Graves’
ophthalmopathy. Up to 5 percent will get severe Graves’ ophthalmopathy.
What Causes Graves’
autoimmune disorders like Graves’ disease, the immune system begins to fight
against healthy tissues and cells in your body. Your immune system usually
produces proteins known as antibodies in order to fight against foreign
invaders like viruses and bacteria. These antibodies are produced specially to
target the specific invader. In Graves’ disease, your immune system mistakenly produces
antibodies called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins that target your own healthy
scientists know that people can inherit the ability to make antibodies against
their own healthy cells, they have no way to determine what causes Graves’
disease or who will develop it.
Who Is at Risk for Graves’
believe that these factors may affect your risk of developing Graves’ disease:
disease is typically found in people younger than 40. Your risk also increases
significantly if family members have Graves’ disease. Women develop it seven to eight
times more frequently than men.
another autoimmune disease also increases your risk for developing Grave’s
disease. Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, and Crohn’s disease are
examples of such autoimmune diseases.
How Is Graves’ Disease
doctor may request laboratory tests if they suspect you have Graves’ disease.
If anyone in your family has had Graves’ disease, your doctor may be able to narrow
down the diagnosis on the basis of your medical history and physical
examination. This will still need to be confirmed by thyroid blood tests. A
doctor who specializes in diseases related to hormones, known as an
endocrinologist, may handle your tests and diagnosis.
doctor may also request some of the following tests:
- blood tests
- thyroid scan
- radioactive iodine uptake test
- thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test
- thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) test
combined results of these may help your doctor learn if you have Graves’
disease or another type of thyroid disorder.
How Is Graves’ Disease
treatment options are available for people with Graves’ disease:
- anti-thyroid drugs
- radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy
- thyroid surgery
doctor may suggest you use one or more of these options to treat your disorder.
drugs, such as propylthiouracil or methimazole,
may be prescribed. Beta-blockers may also be used to help reduce the effects of
your symptoms until other treatments begin to work.
Radioactive iodine therapy is one of the most
common treatments for Graves’ disease. This treatment requires you to take
doses of radioactive iodine-131. This usually requires you to swallow small
amounts in pill form. Your doctor will talk to you about any precautions you
should take with this therapy.
thyroid surgery is an option, it’s used less often. Your doctor may recommend
surgery if previous treatments haven’t worked correctly, if thyroid cancer is
suspected, or if you are a pregnant woman who can’t take anti-thyroid drugs.
surgery is necessary, your doctor may remove your entire thyroid gland to
eliminate the risk of hyperthyroidism returning. You will need thyroid hormone
replacement therapy on an ongoing basis if you opt for surgery. Speak with your
doctor to learn more about the benefits and risks of different treatment