What is Graves’ Disease
Do you have an overactive thyroid? Were you diagnosed with the condition after your doctor found the goiter in your neck? If so, you are at risk for Graves’ disease.
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of an overactive thyroid in the United States. While the exact cause of the toxic diffuse goiter is unknown, the inflammation caused by it is responsible for your body attacking itself and producing too much thyroid hormone in the process. This article will explain what we know about this disease.
What are the predictors for Graves’ disease?
It cannot be clearly predicted which patients will develop this disease. However, there are some common similarities between the patients who are diagnosed.
- Environmental and emotional stress
What this amounts to is the disease usually manifests between the ages of 30 and 60 (on the younger end of that range). It is almost 8 times more likely to occur in women than men. As stated before, not much is known about what causes it, but patients with a family history of Graves’ disease or other autoimmune conditions are more likely to develop a toxic diffuse goiter.
The autoimmune conditions that elevate your risk are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin pigmentation disorders
- Type I diabetes
The disease can also attack your eyes and skin.
About 25 to 30% of patients develop these secondary conditions, but they often pass on their own within one to two years of diagnosis. The normal progression of Graves’ disease looks something like this:
- Nervousness or irritability
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Heat intolerance
- Trouble sleeping
- Hand tremors
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid that may cause the neck to look swollen and can interfere with normal breathing and swallowing
More diagnostic information is available where this symptom list came from. Visit the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service (NEMDIS) website before you see an endocrinologist, so you can understand the basics about the disease and its treatment.
What is the treatment protocol?
Normally, there are two approaches to managing this condition:
- Radioiodine therapy
- Hormone suppression medication
Iodine deficiency has been linked to thyroid conditions.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the diagnosis, you may be put on iodine supplements to help keep your hormone production in check. The other option is to suppress hormone production chemically.
This is done with either beta blockers or anti-thyroid medications. Consider these options the opposite of synthetic or bio-compatible hormone replacement therapy. These drugs stand in the way of the receptors and make sure you only absorb as much hormone as you functionally need. Keep in touch with your endocrinologist for medication adjustments.