What is it?

Graves' Disease is an autoimmune disorder that results in overproduction of the thyroid hormones- a condition called hyperthyroidism. In this disease, the antibodies known as thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins attack the healthy thyroid cells and may cause overproduction of thyroid hormones, which then affect many systems. It can cause anxiety, weight loss, tachycardia, changes in bowel movement and bulging eyes, to name a few. Graves’ disease is more common in women under 40. Risk factors for having Graves’ include family history, other autoimmune diseases, emotional or physical stress, pregnancy and smoking. If left untreated, complications may include heart failure,osteoporosis, pregnancy issues such as miscarriage, preterm birth, fetal thyroid dyfunction and more. Also, a thyroid storm is a rare but life-threatening complication. It is a sudden increase in thyroid hormones which can lead to fever, sweating, vomition, severe low blood pressure and coma.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Toxic Diffuse Goiter

Signs & symptoms

Graves’ disease symptoms may include weight loss, tachycardia, hand tremors, heat intolerance, fatigue, nervousness, irritability, muscle weakness, goiter, diarrhea, sleeping difficulties, changes in menstrual cycles, erectile dysfunction or reduced libido, bulging eyes and thick, red skin on the shins or top of the feet. About 30% of the people who suffer from Graves’ will have Graves’ ophthalmopathy symptoms- bulging eyes, gritty sensation in the eyes, pressure or pain in the eyes, light sensitivity, double vision or vision loss.

Diagnosis

Graves’ disease diagnosis starts with medical history and physical exam, looking for signs and symptoms of the disorder. Blood tests may show low levels of TSH and higher levels of thyroid hormones (T3,T4). Thyroid antibodies may also be present. Radioactive iodine uptake test may diagnose hyperthyroidism if the gland takes up a large amount of iodine. An ultrasound, CT or MRI scans may show an enlarged thyroid gland.

Treatment

Graves’ disease treatment includes oral radioactive iodine therapy. When the gland takes up the radioactive, instead of regular, iodine, it destroys the thyroid cells and the gland shrinks over a few weeks and the symptoms also lessen. Antithyroid medication such as methimazole interferes with the thyroid’s use of iodine to produce hormones. Beta blockers block the thyroid hormones effect on the different organs, and help relieve the symptoms. A surgical removal of the thyroid gland is also an option. Following surgery, the patient will have to take hormone replacement for the rest of his life

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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