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Graves disease can trigger excess thyroid hormones resulting in hyperthyroidism. It is an autoimmune disease that can make your thyroid hormone overactive. Many underlying health causes can result in hyperthyroidism. But, the Graves disease is one of the common cause leading to the problem. The disease gets its name after the doctor, Robert J. Graves. He discovered the problem in one of his patients in the year 1835. The problem is also known as Basedow’s disease after the German doctor Karl Adolph von Basedow. He explained the problem in 1840 without knowing about Grave’s description of the same. The disease is known as Basedow’s disease in several European countries.
The problem can result in several issues in your body due to the fluctuation of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones fluctuations can result in several adverse signs and symptoms. So, it can affect your overall well-being. The problem is more common among women before they reach forty years of age. It is a problem that needs medical attention. Failure to get professional medical help can result in a fatal complication. Therefore, you need to maintain caution and take appropriate steps. Read ahead to know about the problem in detail.
What Is Graves Disease?
Graves disease occurs due to the autoimmune problem that attacks the thyroid gland. The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland. It is situated in front of your neck. So, the hormone released by the gland can control the significant aspects of your body. It not only controls the energy usage by your body, but also influences the working of the other organs. So, the thyroid hormone plays a significant role in your overall well-being. But, the autoimmune problem can result in the overactive thyroid hormone. So, it can produce the hormone more than required for your body. It affects the hormonal balance in your body and creates several health problems. It can even result in your death. Therefore, you need to get treatment for the condition as soon as possible to avoid the complications.
Symptoms Associated With Graves Disease
Several issues in your body can point towards the condition. Check for the following to detect the presence of the health problem:
- Tremor experienced in fingers or hands
- Heat sensitivity leading to profuse sweating, moist and warm skin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Goiter (Enlargement of the thyroid gland)
- Changes in menstrual cycles
- Reduced sex drive or Erectile dysfunction
- Frequent bowel movements
- Irregular or rapid heartbeats
Around a small percentage of people affected by the issue can get affected by Graves ophthalmopathy. Thirty percent of the affected person can suffer from the issue. It can lead to the inflammation of the tissue around the eyes. It can also affect the muscles around your eyes. So, you may sign like:
- Bulging of your eyes
- Pain or pressure in the eyes
- Gritty sensation
- Light sensitivity
- Inflamed or reddened eyes
- Vision Loss
- Double Vision
Graves dermopathy is another sign affecting people with autoimmune disease. It can lead to the thickening of the skin. It also causes reddening on the skin. So, you can see the changes in the skin on top of your feet or on your shins.
Causes Of Graves Disease
The exact cause triggering the issue remains unknown. But, one probable reason points to the body’s attack on your thyroid glands. It can result in the overproduction of the thyroid hormone. So, your body’s malfunctioning immune system can trigger the problem. In normal cases, when a foreign substance like bacteria or virus affects your body, your immune system produces antibodies. It targets the foreign objects and destroys it. But, with Graves disease, your immune system produces antibodies to attack your thyroid gland without any provocation. So, your body produces excess thyroid hormone.
In normal cases, the thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb) regulates your pituitary hormone. So, it balances the hormones in your body. But, the autoimmune disease can make the TRAB override the normal regulation of the thyroid gland. Therefore, it results in hyperthyroidism.
It occurs when specific carbohydrates start building up in the muscles and tissues behind your eyes. Why it happens still remains a mystery. It is speculated that the antibody causing thyroid dysfunction can get attracted to the tissues surrounding your eyes. So, the problem can affect you after some time you suffer from the autoimmune disease.
Risk Factors Associated With Graves Disease
Some people are more at risk of suffering from the problem compared to others. Certain factors make them susceptible to the problem more. So, the risk factors associated with the problem are:
Genetics plays an important role in getting the disease. If someone from your family has a problem, then it makes you susceptible to the problem.
Women are more likely to develop the problem compared to men.
Age plays a significant part in developing the issue. In most cases, people younger than forty years can cultivate the problem.
Physical or emotional stress can trigger the issue. So, stressful life events or physical illness can develop into Graves disease in genetically susceptible people.
Women with a family history of the disease can develop a health problem during their pregnancy or after childbirth.
Other Autoimmune Problems
Other autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis or Type 1 diabetes can increase your risk of getting affected by the problem.
Smoking can affect your health adversely. The excess nicotine intake can affect your immune system. So, it increases your risk of the autoimmune disease. It also increases the risk of developing Graves ophthalmopathy.
Complications Due To Graves Disease
When you ignore the problem and fail to seek medical treatment, it can result in severe complications. Some of the complications include:
Problems With Pregnancy
Pregnant women suffering from Graves disease can suffer complications like:
- Preterm Birth
- Poor Fetal Growth
- Fetal Thyroid Dysfunction
- Maternal Heart Failure
Graves disease can cause heart problems that can prove fatal. So, heart issues can even end your life. The complications include:
- Changes in heart structure
- Heart rhythm disorders
- Changes in heart function
- The inability of the heart to pump blood properly (Congestive heart failure)
It is the life-threatening complication of the autoimmune disease. But, it can happen rarely in people. The thyroid storm can result as a result of the sudden increase in the thyroid hormones. The problem is also referred to as thyrotoxic crisis or accelerated hyperthyroidism. You need to get treatment for the issue as soon as possible. Without treatment, the issue can trigger severe complications like:
- Severe weakness
- Profuse Sweating
- Low Blood Pressure
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Jaundice (the yellow texture of skin and eyes)
It is the problem that requires immediate medical attention. Without proper medical attention, you can suffer severe complications. Therefore, you need to take action immediately.
When you ignore the hyperthyroidism, it can cause weakness in your bones. The weak or brittle bones can make your movement impossible. It can develop into osteoporosis as too much thyroid hormones reduces the absorption of calcium in your body. Bones need calcium and other minerals to enhance its strength. Therefore, excess thyroid hormones can affect bone health.
Diagnosis Of Graves Disease
When you experience one or more symptoms associated with the disease, you need to see a doctor. So, your doctor can use the following diagnostic techniques to detect the problem:
Your doctor can perform the physical examination to look for signs that indicate the problem. So, your doctor can check your eyes to check for irritation and protruding. The enlarged thyroid gland also indicates the issue. The problem can increase your metabolism. So, the doctor checks your blood pressure as well as pulse. Signs of tremor can also indicate the problem.
Your doctor can order for a blood test to determine the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels. It is the hormone responsible for stimulating the thyroid gland. TSH also regulates the thyroid hormones to keep the balance in your body. The autoimmune disease can decrease the TSH levels, which can higher the thyroid hormones. So, the low TSH levels indicate the problem. Another test determines the antibody levels linked to the Graves disease. Therefore, the negative levels of the test can lead to hyperthyroidism.
Radioactive Iodine Uptake
In normal cases, your body needs iodine to stimulate the thyroid hormones. So, after providing you with a small amount of iodine, a specialized camera monitors your gland’s uptake. The rate at which the gland takes iodine can help your doctor determine if you have the condition. It also eliminates the other health problems leading to hyperthyroidism. So, a radioactive iodine scan provides a comprehensive image of your gland’s iodine uptake pattern.
The test provides a visual of your thyroid gland. Using the high-frequency sound waves, it provides a clear image of the gland. So, it helps your doctor detect the enlargement of the gland. The test is ideal for people who cannot undergo radioactive iodine uptake (for example pregnant women).
Other sophisticated imaging tests like CT scans and MRI can provide a clearer picture. It helps with the easy assessment of the problem.
Treatment Of Graves Disease
The treatment options available for the autoimmune disease focusses on obstructing the thyroid hormone production. So, it blocks the effects of the hormones in your body. The common treatment options include:
Radioactive Iodine Therapy
Your doctor suggests taking the radioactive iodine through your mouth. Your body requires iodine to produce the hormones. So, radioactive iodine therapy can destroy the overactive thyroid cells over some duration of time. It helps the thyroid gland to shrink. Therefore, you can see the symptoms lessening gradually over a period of time. You can experience some side-effects due to the treatment. Therefore, you need to talk to your doctor regarding it before undergoing the treatment. After the treatment, your thyroid activity may tend to decline. So, your doctor can suggest treatment to supply proper amounts of thyroid hormones to your body.
The medication aims to treat the overactive thyroid gland triggered by the Graves disease. It is also referred to as thionamides, which blocks the thyroid hormone from forming in the thyroid glands. So, the medications reduce the T4 and T3 levels in your body. It is suggested as the initial treatment for the autoimmune disease to see how you react to the medications. It has huge benefits as a short-term treatment, but not advisable as a long-term treatment option.
It is the medication prescribed by your doctor to block the effects of the thyroid hormone. But, it may not stop the production of thyroid hormones. But, it can provide you relief from tremors, rapid or irregular heartbeats, irritability, sweating, heat intolerance, muscle weakness, and diarrhea. Before prescribing the medication, your doctor may check for other health issues. It is due to the fact that the medication can worsen certain health conditions. So, it can trigger an asthma attack for people with asthma problem and complicate diabetes management for people with high sugar levels.
Invasive surgery is the last resort your doctor may suggest to maintain the thyroid levels. So, the surgery may remove a part of or complete thyroid gland. The partial removal is referred to as thyroidectomy and the complete removal is known as a subtotal thyroidectomy. After the surgery, you need to take medication to make your thyroid levels normal. But, the surgery has some risk factors associated with it. It can cause nerve damage to your vocal cords. It may also affect your parathyroid glands (it is the tiny glands adjacent to the thyroid glands). The parathyroid glands are responsible for the production of hormones that control calcium levels. Therefore, you need to find an expert surgeon to perform the surgery to avoid the complications.
Treatment Option For Graves Ophthalmopathy
The autoimmune problem leading to the issue of your eyes need specific treatment. So, depending on the severity of the condition, your doctor can suggest treatment methods. The following treatment option can provide you relief from the issue:
It is prescribed for the mild form of the problem. You can manage the symptoms easily with the over-the-counter artificial tears and lubricating gels. Use the artificial tears at the day time and the gels at night to relieve the symptoms.
It is the treatment prescribed when artificial tears fail to provide relief. Your doctor prescribes prednisone (a corticosteroid) to reduce the swelling behind the eyeballs. It may have side effects, which you need to discuss with your doctor.
The problem of double vision occurs after you undergo surgery for the Graves disease. So, the doctor corrects the vision with the prism in your glasses. But, it may not work for everyone.
Orbital Decompression Surgery
Some people may experience extra pressure on the optic nerve due to the autoimmune disease. It leads to the loss of vision. So, your doctor can perform the surgery to remove the bone between the sinuses and eye socket (orbit). After the surgery, it can make it easy to move the eyes to the original position. But, you may face some complications due to the surgery.
It is the most common treatment option suggested by the doctor. It uses targeted x-rays to destroy the tissue behind the eyes. You need to undergo the treatment for some duration of time to get relief. So, it is an effective option for people who do not find any relief from other treatment options.
You need to understand that the treatment for the autoimmune disease will not improve the graves ophthalmopathy. The problem becomes worse for 3 to 6 months. But, it can improve and stabilize the after a year.
The skin problem can make you uncomfortable. So, your doctor can prescribe the over-the-counter creams or ointments that provides relief. The cream containing hydrocortisone can reduce the reddening of the skin and the swelling. You can also use compression wraps to reduce the swelling on the legs.
Preventive Measures For Graves Disease
The exact cause leading to the autoimmune problem remains unclear. Therefore, it is not easy to determine the perfect preventive measure to avoid the problem. But, you can adopt certain steps in your life to prevent it from affecting your life. So, the preventive measures include:
If your family member has the problem, then you need to maintain caution. When you see the signs associated with the problem, contact your doctor immediately.
Try to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Include a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables. Include physical exercise to remain active.
Avoid Bad Habits
Quit smoking. Smoking not only weakens your immune system but also make your body susceptible to other problems. It also increases your chance of getting Graves ophthalmopathy. So, avoid the nicotine intake in any form.
You need to reduce stress from life to prevent the disease. Emotional and physical stress can affect your body adversely. Therefore, you need to take up calming activities. You can include yoga, meditation or other activities you enjoy. It will help release the pent up negative energy and calm you.
Graves Disease is a manageable condition when you get treatment as early as possible. You need constant monitoring of the thyroid hormone to prevent any severe complication from affecting your life. With proper steps, you can manage it and lead a happy life. Never diminish the effect of the issue on your life as ignoring it can prove fatal to your life.View Article Sources