Have you been told that you may have Graves’ disease? If you don’t know what it is, then you may have many different questions about the illness itself and how it is linked to your thyroid problems.
In fact, Graves’ disease is one of the leading causes of hyperthyroidism, so if you visited the doctor for your thyroid problem, this disease may come up. Just what is it and what does it mean for you?
What is Graves’ Disease?
Most common in adult women, Graves’ disease can affect almost anyone of any age or gender. The disease is classified as an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system in your body has gotten confused and is actually attacking important things inside you.
In the case of Graves’ disease, your body is attacking the receptors that receive hormones from the thyroid. Because the receptors are not getting the hormones they need, they send signals back to the thyroid. This, in turn, causes the thyroid to work harder and overproduce.
Someone who has Graves’ disease will begin experiencing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, like restlessness, weight loss, more appetite, irritable bowel syndrome, vision problems, and intolerance to warm temperatures.
What are the Symptoms of Graves’ Disease?
People with Graves’ disease will exhibit the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, but there are also symptoms specific to the disease itself. These symptoms include the following:
- Weight loss
- Weakness in the muscles
- Rapid heartbeat
- Frequent bowel movements
- Eye irritation
- Bulging eyeballs
- Double vision
- Unexplained fatigue
- Increase in appetite with weight loss
- Increased sweating for no reason
- Menstrual problems (irregular periods)
Not all people exhibit the exact same symptoms. You may have Graves’ disease and only exhibit a few of the above or you may have all of them. Always consult your physician if you experience any of the symptoms for a proper diagnosis and the right treatment.
How Is Graves’ Disease Treated?
There is no treatment specifically for the autoimmune disorder. Instead, treatments center around managing the hyperthyroidism. Some treatment options you may need to consider include:
- Beta blockers will be used to manage irregular heartbeat until your doctor is able to control the hyperthyroidism.
- Antithyroid medication can be used to slow production of the hormones.
- Radioactive Iodine can be used to actually damage the thyroid so that it doesn’t overproduce.
- Surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid.
In some cases, thyroid surgery may need to be used. This surgery will either remove all or part of the thyroid to stop the disease. Only specific cases will require surgery, like patients who have thyroid eye disease, patients with goiters, or women who are pregnant.
You will need to discuss all of your options with your physician to determine which will work best for your own disorder. Keep in mind that if you have surgery to remove your thyroid, you will need to take hormone replacement medications for the rest of your life.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that attacks a part of the thyroid system. When receptors can’t get the hormones they need, the thyroid will start overcompensating in an effort to get enough hormones to them. This results in a case of hyperthyroidism.
Your Graves’ disease can’t be cured, but it can be managed by treating the hyperthyroidism. There are numerous different approaches to the treatment. You need to find a qualified, experienced physician to determine which course of action will work best for your own condition.
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