Graves Disease: Graves’ disease is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting 13 million people and targeting women seven times as often as … more about Graves Disease.
Graves Disease: A form of hyperthyroidism where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine which results in various symptoms such as goiter, protruding eyes and skin disorders. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Graves Disease is available below.
Causes Graves’ Disease
Graves’ disease is caused by a malfunctioning of the immune system. Antibodies that usually protect the body against infections, viruses and bacteria, attack the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland, in turn, produces excess thyroid hormone. It is not known what causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland. A combination of factors such as heredity, sex, age, stress, smoking, and radiation have been implicated as possible triggers for Graves’ disease.
Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder that is more common in middle-aged women than in any other group of people. The symptoms of Graves disease are caused by hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid gland, which produces more thyroid hormones than the body can handle. It is not known how the thyroid gland becomes overactive, however. So the exact cause of Graves disease cannot be pinpointed.
Graves’ disease symptoms
It’s also fairly common for your eyes to exhibit mild signs of a condition known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy. In Graves’ ophthalmopathy, your eyeball bulges out past its protective orbit (exophthalmos). This occurs as tissues and muscles behind your eye swell and cause your eyeball to move forward. Because your eye is so far forward, the front surface of your eye can become dry. Cigarette smokers with Graves’ disease are more likely to have eye problems.
Thyroid hormone has been recognized as an important factor in brain function, so either too much or too little causes malfunction. In a few patients, the emotional pattern is that of mild euphoria. In others, profound fatigue or weakness may be the most noticeable symptom. The mind is often very active, and the patient may have insomnia. Rarely, patients develop visual or auditory hallucinations or a frank psychosis. The latter may not completely clear up after thyrotoxicosis has been treated, but may result from an underlying condition existing before the Graves’ disease.
Treatment of Graves’ disease
Here is list of the methods for treating Graves’ disease:
Your doctor will prescribe either methimazole (Tapazole) or propylthiouracil (PTU) pills. These drugs act to prevent the thyroid from manufacturing the thyroid hormone.
Anti-thyroid drugs which inhibit production or conversion of the active thyroid hormone.
Surgical removal of most of the thyroid gland is the other alternative for severe cases of Graves’ disease.
The choice of modality for initial treatment of Graves’ disease is based on symptoms, individual preference, and the experience of the health care provider. In North America, radioactive iodine is often the first treatment of choice whereas in Europe, the initial choice for treatment is antithyroid drugs.
Many of the treatment modalities for Graves’ disease render the thyroid gland non-functional and lifetime replacement with synthetic thyroid hormone is required. Some studies indicate that regardless of the treatment chosen, approximately 50% of patients remain hypothyroid (low levels of thyroid hormone) even 10 years after treatment.