Understanding Graves’ Disease

Understanding Graves’ Disease

Graves’ Disease and Thyroid

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). In other words, the small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck creates more thyroid hormone than necessary.

This gland plays a crucial role in one’s metabolism, growth, and physical maturation, regulating bodily functions by releasing the necessary and consistent amount of hormones into the bloodstream. When the body needs more of a certain hormone to increase energy, the thyroid produces it.

It’s when too much or too little of thyroid hormone is produced that we have a problem.

Who’s At Graves’ Risk?

About 1 in 200 people are affected by Graves’. Although the disease can affect anyone, it occurs more often in women than in men and individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. Genes play a major role, as it is more likely that a person will develop Graves’ if family members have the disease. Having other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, lupus, or vitiligo, can also contribute to the likelihood of developing Graves’.

Symptoms of Graves’

There are several symptoms of Graves’. Those include:

  • Nervousness, anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat
  • Fine tremors of the hands
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Increased sweating, hot flashes
  • Difficulty tolerating hot conditions
  • Trouble sleeping, restlessness
  • Weight loss, even with an increased appetite
  • Infrequent periods
  • Thyroid enlargement known as a goiter
  • Enlargement can cause difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Between 25% and 50% of people with Graves disease have eye abnormalities, which are known as Graves ophthalmopathy.

Symptoms Can Lead to Other Problems

Graves’ disease can be a catalyst to other subsequent issues. An irregular heartbeat can cause blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related problems. Eye diseases like Graves’ ophthalmopathy or Graves’ orbitopathy (GO) can cause eye troubles such as double vision, bulging eyes, light sensitivity, eye pain, and rarely, vision loss. The disease can also cause brittle bones or osteoporosis.

Recognize the Signs, Ask Doctor for Help

Although Graves’ disease usually develops as a combination of genes and external factors, such as a virus, there are ways a person can adjust their diet to incorporate less iodine. It’s important to recognize symptoms early and speak with a doctor who knows your medical history and current medical conditions. That way, the health professional knows what treatments and lifestyle changes are best for you, specifically.