What is graves' disease?


Know the basics

What is graves’ disease?

Graves’ disease is a type of hyperthyroidisman. It is an auto-immune disorder that causes an overproduction of thyroid hormones. The mechanism of hyperthyroidism is that the immune system produces immunoglobulins, an antibody that can stimulate thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormones.

Hyperthyroidism can be caused by many other reasons, but Graves’ disease is a common cause.

Because thyroid hormones have many effect on your overall body, symptoms of this disease include a wide range of changes in nervous system function, brain development, and body temperature.

How common is graves’ disease?

Graves’ disease is extremely common. It commonly affects more females than males. It can affect commonly in patients before 40 years old. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of graves’ disease?

The common symptoms of Graves’ disease are:

  • Anxiety and irritability, fatigue, nervousness, irritability, and difficulty sleeping;
  • Increased frequent bowel movements and/or diarrhea;
  • Hand tremors or fingers tremors;
  • Weight loss, even if you are eating normally;
  • Menstrual cycles changed in women, erectile dysfunction in men or reduced libido;
  • Enlargement of thyroid gland (goiter);
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat;
  • Thick, red skin around the shin area (Graves’ dermopathy);
  • Exophthalmos, pressure or pain in the eyes, Reddened or inflamed eyes, Light sensitivity, double vision (Graves’ ophthalmopathy).

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes graves’ disease?

The cause of Graves’ disease is still not clearly defined.  In Graves’ disease, your body immune system produces an antibody that suppress pituitary hormone. This hormone controls production of thyroid hormones. When this happens, the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones, leading to many changes in the body.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for graves’ disease?

There are many risk factors for Graves’ disease, such as:

  • Family history or heredity.
  • Graves’ disease occurs in women more than in men.
  • Graves’ disease commonly develops in people younger than 40.
  • Other autoimmune disorders: such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. These disorders give an increased risk of having Graves’ disease.
  • Emotional or physical stress.Stress may trigger for the onset of Graves’ disease.
  • Pregnancy or recent childbirth may increase the risk of the disorder,
  • Cigarette smoking increases the risk of Graves’ disease. Smoking also increase the risk of having Graves’ opthalmology.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is graves’ disease diagnosed?

Graves’ disease can be diagnosed through following tests:

  • Physical exam is used to find out any signs of Graves’ opthalmology, thyroid gland enlargement, tremors, information about heartbeat, blood pressure…
  • Blood tests to determine level of: Antibody causing hyperthyroidism (Thyroid immunoglobulins test, TST); Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH); Thyroid hormone; Pituitary hormone.
  • Radioactive iodine uptake test measures the level of radioactive iodine in thyroid gland after taking orally iodine. Level of iodine uptake helps health care professional to determine the Graves’ disease because iodine is very important in producing thyroid hormone.
  • Ultrasound can be used in case that patient cannot use radioactive iodine, such as, pregnancy. This type of test can help to see inside the thyroid gland.

How is graves’ disease treated?

There are 3 options for treatment of Graves’ disease:

  • Anti-thyroid drugs: Anti-thyroid drugs, such as propylthiouracil or methimazole, may be prescribed. Beta-blockers may also be used to help reduce the effects of your symptoms until other treatments begin to work.
  • Radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy: is one of the most common treatments for Graves’ disease in which patient takes doses of radioactive iodine-131.
  • Thyroid surgery: is used commonly in case that previous treatments haven’t worked correctly or thyroid cancer is suspected, or you are a pregnant woman. Entire thyroid gland may be removed to reduce risk of hyperthyroidism.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage graves’ disease?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Graves’ disease:

  • Eating well and exercising can help you to improve some symptoms.
  • Easing stress as much as possible may be helpful because stress may cause or worsen Graves’ disease: listening to music, playing sport or walking or doing no matter what helps you feel relaxing.
  • Apply cool compresses to your eyes.To  soothe your eyes  by increasing moisture.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Use lubricating eye drops.
  • Elevate the head of your bed: to reduce pressure on your eyes.
  • Stop smoking!
  • Use over-the-counter creams or ointments containing hydrocortisone to relieve swelling and reddening.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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