Graves' Disease is a type of autoimmune disease in which the immune system
over stimulates the thyroid gland, causing
hyperthyroidism. Over-activity of the thyroid gland is also sometimes called
"diffuse toxic goiter." The thyroid gland helps set the rate of metabolism (the
rate at which the body uses energy), and when it is over-stimulated, it produces
more thyroid hormones than the body needs. High levels of thyroid hormones can
cause difficult side effects. This is an extremely rare disease that tends to
affect women over the age of 20. The incidence is about 5 in 10,000 people.
An autoimmune disease occurs when the body's immune system becomes
misdirected and attacks the very organs, cells, or tissues that it was designed
to protect. About 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women, most frequently
during their childbearing years.
The most common symptoms of Grave’s Disease, or thyroid over-stimulation
include insomnia, irritability, weight loss without dieting, heat sensitivity,
increased perspiration, fine or brittle hair, muscular weakness, eye changes,
lighter menstrual flow, rapid heart beat, and hand tremors. Grave’s Disease is
the only kind of hyperthyroidism that is associated with inflammation of the
eyes, swelling of the tissue around the eyes, and protrusion, or bulging, of the
eyes. Some patients will develop lumpy reddish thickening of the skin in front
of the shins called pretibial myxedema. This skin condition is usually painless.
The symptoms of this disease can occur gradually or very suddenly and are
sometimes confused with other medical problems. disorders. The tremors are greatly helped by the treatment of the
hyperthyroid contion and reducing inflammation.
Thyroid hormone test if you have bulging eyes.
There are many treatments for Graves' Disease.
Medications: There are some prescription medications that
can lower the amount of thyroid hormones produced by the body, regulating
them to normal levels.
Surgery: Part or 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),
and will have to take thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of their
After a diagnosis is made and a treatment is selected, you should return to
your health care provider annually to make sure that your thyroid levels are
normal and do not need to be adjusted.
If left untreated, Grave's Disease can lead to more serious complications,
including birth defects in pregnancy, increased risk of a miscarriage, and in
extreme cases, death. Graves’ Disease is often accompanied by an increase in
heart rate, which may lead to further heart complications.