Graves’ disease is an illness caused by immune system malfunction which results in hyperthyroidism or elevated secretion of thyroid hormones. Graves’ disease is one of the most prevalent causes of hyperthyroidism.
The thyroid hormones are responsible for management of varied bodily functions such as regulation of metabolism, body temperature, muscle strength, nervous system and heart functioning, and menstrual cycles, etc. Hence, the effects of Graves’ disease can be extensiveand severely affect the quality and standard of life.
Graves’ disease is not a lethal illness. Even though it can affect people of all ages, it is more common in women and those younger than 40 years old. Treatment of Graves’ disease involves controlling the production of thyroid hormones, reducing the severity of symptoms, and managing any complications that may arise.
Symptoms of Graves’ disease
Listed below are a few common signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease:
- Protruding eyes
- Thickened, reddish skin; mainly in the shins and feet
- Increased bowel movements; diarrhea
- Reduced libido, or sexual problems like erectile dysfunction
- Goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid gland
- Elevated sensitivity to heat
- Sudden weight loss
- Excessive sweating; perennially wet or moist skin
- Rapid or abnormal heartbeat
- A fine tremor affecting the hands and fingers
- Sleeping problems
It is a form of Graves’ disease mainly featuring abnormalities of the muscles and tissues present near the eyes.About half the number of people suffering from Graves’ disease tend to have Graves’ ophthalmopathy and its symptoms, including:
- Limited ocular movements which can result in a permanent stare
- Blurred vision; double vision
- Redness or inflammation affecting the eyes
- Pressure or pain affecting the eyes
- Puffed or swollen eyelids
- Sandy sensations in the eyes
- Increased tearing
- Ocular dryness and irritation
- Protruding eyes
- In rare instances, reduced vision or ulcers in the cornea
It is an uncommon sign of an underlying case of Graves’ disease. It is identified by the following symptoms:
- Increased hardening, thickening, and reddening of the skin
- The skin anomaly particularly affects the tops of shins and the feet.
A few complications arising due to an underlying case of Graves’ disease are mentioned below:
- An untreated case of serious hyperthyroidism can cause the thyroid hormone levels to rise sharply. This can result in many different abnormal symptoms like severe hypertension, tremors, very irregular heartbeat, delirium, severe weakness, fever, elevated sweating, confusion, and even coma.
- Elevated levels of thyroid hormones prevent the body from passing on calcium to the bones. Severe hyperthyroidism can thus cause weak and brittle bones or osteoporosis.
- Pregnant patients may suffer from fetal thyroid dysfunction, preeclampsia, premature childbirth, and poor growth and development of the unborn child.
- When left untreated, Graves’ disease can cause changes in the structure and functioning of the heart muscles, abnormalities of cardiac rhythm, and congestive heart failure.
Causes of Graves’ disease
- Graves’ disease is caused due to a malfunctioning immune system. The main function of the immune system is to produce antibodies to counter the attacks of bacteria and other pathogens. In patients of Graves’ disease, the body makes an antibody to attack and fight a particular protein occurring on the surface of thyroid cells. The reason for such abnormal behavior of the immune system is as yet unknown.
- The function of the thyroid gland is usually regulated by a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. The antibody associated with Graves’ disease is known as TRAb or thyrotropin receptor. This antibody imitates the function of the pituitary gland hormone, overruling normal thyroid management, and eventually causing elevated production of thyroid hormones.
- Graves’ ophthalmopathy symptoms are also caused by the TRAb antibody.
Listed below are certain risk factors which can increase the susceptibility to developing Graves’ disease:
- Smoking. Daily smoking increases the threat even more.
- People with a genetic predisposition to Graves’ disease become more vulnerable with increased emotional or physical stress.
- Pregnancy or recent childbirth, particularly in genetically vulnerable women.
- Graves’ disease is more prevalent in individuals under 40 years of age.
- Underlying occurrence of other autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
- A family history of Graves’ disease.
- Women are more susceptible than men.
Treatment of Graves’ disease
Graves’ disease treatment is aimed at limiting the production of thyroid hormones, managing the symptoms, and restricting the onset of health complications.A few treatment options are as follows:
- Intake of beta blockers to decrease or block the adverse effects of elevated thyroid hormone levels. The medication however has many side effects.
- Radioactive iodine therapy which involves destruction ofoveractive thyroid gland cells, shrinking the gland, and decreasing thyroid hormone secretion.
- Intake of anti-thyroid drugs which hamper the ability of thyroid gland to use iodine, thereby decreasing the production of thyroid hormone.
- Surgery to remove the thyroid gland. Patients need to take thyroid replacement therapy for the rest of their lives post thyroid gland removal.
- Graves’ ophthalmopathy can be corrected via ocular surgeries or use of prism-glasses, while its symptoms can be alleviated by corticosteroid medications.
Graves’ disease pictures