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Home > Disease > Graves’ Disease

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ Disease

Overview of Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition that can cause the hormone levels in a body to fluctuate, causing hyperthyroidism. Too much thyroid hormone in the system will affect heart rate and metabolism, as well as other organs including the heart and bones. There are treatments available.

How common is Graves’ Disease?

Despite being the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, accounting for 60% to 80% of cases, Graves' disease is a rather rare disorder. A little more than 1.2% of Indians have hyperthyroidism.

How does Graves’ Disease Affect the Body?

The thyroid hormone has an impact on a variety of biological systems and processes. Graves' disease/hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone) consequently affects many parts of the body, including your:

  • Heart
  • Skeletal muscle
  • Eyes
  • Skin
  • Bones
  • Liver

For instance, osteoporosis, a rapid heartbeat, and more serious cardiac problems might arise from an overabundance of thyroid hormone (weakened bones).

It's crucial to get medical treatment for Graves' Disease because it has a negative impact on many different elements of your health.

What causes Graves’ disease?

Antibodies are proteins that your immune system typically makes to defend against foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria.

However, if you have an autoimmune condition like Graves' disease, your immune system starts to battle your body's healthy tissues and cells.

Your immune system wrongly creates thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins when you have Graves' disease rather than antibodies to specifically target an invader. These antibodies then go for the healthy thyroid cells in your own body.

Scientists are aware that the capacity to produce antibodies against one's own healthy cells can be inherited. However, neither the cause nor the prognosis of Graves' disease have been established.

The development of it may be influenced by both your genes and a virus or other external trigger, according to experts.

What are the symptoms of Graves’ Disease?

The signs and symptoms of Graves' disease typically appear gradually over a period of weeks or months.

Hyperthyroidism, which is brought on by Graves' disease, accelerates some bodily processes. The signs of hyperthyroidism are numerous. You might experience some of these symptoms all at once while not experiencing others.

Hyperthyroidism symptoms can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Feeling shaky and/or nervous
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Diarrhea and/or more frequent bowel movements
  • Thin, warm and moist skin
  • Intolerance to heat and excessive sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping, such as insomnia
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Hair loss and change in hair texture (brittle)
  • Menstrual changes
  • Muscle weakness

Visit your healthcare practitioner if you have these symptoms.

Other signs of eye disease that may be brought on by Graves' disease include:

  • Gritty, irritated eyes
  • Swelling of the tissues around your eyes (puffy eyes)
  • Bulging eyes
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Pressure or pain in your eyes
  • Blurred or double vision.

This condition is referred to as thyroid eye disease, orbitopathy, or Graves' ophthalmopathy. Only approximately a third of Graves' disease sufferers have this condition. See your eye doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms (optometrist or ophthalmologist).

Pretibial myxedema, sometimes referred to as Graves' dermopathy, is an uncommon thickening of the skin on the shins that is lumpy and reddish. Even while it's mostly mild and unharmful, some people could feel pain.

Diagnosis of Graves' Disease

Your medical professional will conduct a physical examination and inquire about your symptoms, medical history, including any family members who have had thyroid Disease. In order to confirm the diagnosis of Graves' Disease, they may also request the following tests:

  • Thyroid Blood test: These blood tests measure the levels of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone in your blood (TSH). Your thyroid gland is producing too much hormone if your TSH level is low. Less TSH is produced by your pituitary gland as a result of the overproduction. Other Tests Include: TSH Test, Thyroid Profile Test, Total T3 Test, Free T3 Test, Total t4 Test, Free T4 Test
  • Thyroid antibody blood tests:  These examinations aid in the diagnosis of several autoimmune thyroid diseases. Thyroid-stimulating antibodies (TSI) and TBII are the two categories of antibodies associated with Graves' disease (thyrotropin binding inhibitory immunoglobulins).
  • Thyroid uptake and scan: You consume a little amount of radioactive iodine orally during this test. Your healthcare professional will measure the amount of radioactive iodine your thyroid absorbs. Iodine absorption levels that are high may indicate Graves' Disease.
  • Doppler blood flow measurement (Doppler ultrasound): With the help of sound waves, this test can find Graves' disease-related increased thyroid blood flow. Your doctor could recommend this test if radioactive iodine uptake is not a good option for you, such as if you are pregnant or nursing.

Treatment of Graves' Disease

Graves' disease is a chronic (lifelong) Disease. Treatments, however, can help you maintain normal thyroid hormone levels. The condition might potentially temporarily disappear with medical treatment (remission).

Treatments for Graves’ disease include:

  • Beta-blockers:  Propranolol and metoprolol are examples of beta-blockers that are frequently used as the first line of treatment for Graves' Disease. These medications regulate your heart rate and protect your cardiovascular system until other hyperthyroidism treatments take effect. The generation of thyroid hormone is not stopped by these drugs. 
  • Antithyroid medications:  Propylthiouracil and methimazole (Tapazole®), two antithyroid drugs, prevent your thyroid from producing thyroid hormone. In a small number of people, these medications may increase your risk of infection by resulting in skin rashes and low white blood cell counts. Liver Disease almost seldom occurs.
  • Radioiodine therapy: One dosage of liquid or pill-form radioactive iodine is administered as part of this therapy. Radiation damages thyroid gland cells gradually over the course of two to three months. Your hormone levels return to normal when your thyroid gland shrinks (your remaining body is not exposed to radiation). It is not recommended for women who are expecting or nursing to take this medicine. If you get this therapy, you will probably eventually develop hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), which necessitates medication. Contrarily, hypothyroidism is easier to treat and poses less long-term risks to health than hyperthyroidism.
  • Surgery:  The thyroid gland is surgically removed, either entirely or partially, during a thyroidectomy. Some individuals produce insufficient thyroid hormone following surgery (hypothyroidism). You might need to take levothyroxine (Synthroid®) or other thyroid replacement hormone drugs for the rest of your life if you acquire this Disease.

Surgery, radioiodine therapy, and antithyroid medications all have advantages and disadvantages, and the medical community is divided on the optimal course of action. It's critical to have a detailed discussion with your provider about all three options in order to make the best choice for you.

Complications of Graves’ Disease

  • Eye complications

A small percentage of all Graves' disease patients will develop thyroid eye disease, which causes the muscles and tissues in your eyes to swell. Even though it's uncommon, this can lead to exophthalmos, a condition in which your eyes bulge from their sockets, and is seen as a sign of Graves' Disease. The severity of your Graves' Disease has little to do with whether you have this consequence, though. In fact, it's unclear whether these visual issues are caused by Graves' Disease specifically or by a completely other but closely related disorder. Your eyes may hurt, feel dry, and inflamed if you have thyroid eye disease. Because the eyelids can't adequately shield them, protruding eyeballs are more likely to experience significant tearing and redness.

Swollen eye muscles in severe exophthalmos cases, which are uncommon, can place a great deal of pressure on the optic nerve and perhaps cause partial blindness. Long-term inflammation can weaken eye muscles to the point where they are unable to control movement, leading to double vision.

Skin complications

Pretibial myxedema, often known as Graves' dermopathy, is a rare skin condition that can affect some Graves' disease patients. The skin on the shins has thickened in a lumpy, reddish pattern. It normally causes no pain and is not dangerous. Similar to exophthalmos, this problem doesn't always start when Graves' Disease begins and has nothing eye do with how serious your disease is.

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