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Graves Disease - Symptoms and Treatment


Graves disease is a thyroid disorder characterized by goiter , exophthalmos , "orange-peel" skin, and hyperthyroidism . It is caused by an  autoantibody (called thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin, TSI) that acts like thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and that causes the thyroid gland to produce excess thyroid hormone. High levels of thyroid hormones can cause side effects such as weight loss, rapid heart rate and nervousness. This is an uncommon disease that affects 2 percent of all women at some time in their lives. Graves' Disease also tends to affect women between the ages of 20 and 40, although it occurs in infants, children, and the elderly. Graves' disease may cause symptoms and signs such as weight loss, increased appetite, hand tremors, heat sensitivity, sweating, nervousness, and in some patients, protruding eyes. Patients with the disease often have an increased heart rate and an enlarged but not painful thyroid gland (goiter).

The most common form of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease. In newborns, the most common cause of an overactive thyroid is called neonatal Graves disease, which can be life threatening. However, hyperthyroidism rarely occurs in children and adolescents. It is named after Robert Graves, the 19th century Irish physician who first discovered the condition. In Graves' disease, the thyroid gland in the neck is diffusely enlarged and hyperactive, producing excessive thyroid hormones. Graves' disease can have an effect on many parts of the body such as the nervous system, eyes, skin, hair/nails, lungs, digestive system, muscles/bones and reproductive system.

Causes of Graves Disease

Common Causes of Graves Disease :

  • The exact cause of Graves' disease is unknown.
  • Thyroid nodules or tumors.
  • Inflammation of the thyroid gland (often later leads to hypothyroidism).
  • A single nodule in the thyroid gland.

Symptoms of Graves Disease

Some common Symptoms of Graves Disease :

  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Weight loss.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Nervousness.
  • Double vision.
  • Eye irritation.
  • Goiter.

Treatment of Graves Disease

  • The radioactive iodine damages thyroid cells, shrinking and eventually destroying the thyroid gland in order to reduce hormone levels. Like surgery, this condition usually leads to hypothyroidism, so that thyroid hormone supplement medication is needed for the rest of the patient's life.
  • All of the thyroid gland will be removed. In most cases, people who have surgery for Graves' Disease will develop an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism, the opposite of hyperthyroidism), and will have to take thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of their lives.
  • There are some medicines called antithyroid drugs that can lower the amount of thyroid hormones made by the thyroid, causing it to make, normal levels. A doctor must give these medicines to you. Some patients who take an acute thyroid drug for 1 to 2 years have a remission from Graves' disease; their thyroid function may remain normal even without medication.

 

 


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