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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Graves’ Disease – What It is? Causes and Symptoms

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Graves’ disease is a very rare and uncommon disease. It is an autoimmune disease that destroys the thyroid gland by over-working it and driving the production of the thyroid hormones into overdrive. This will therefore lead to hyperthyroidism.

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This is a condition that is gotten as a result of some immunoglobulins that is found in the blood known as thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSIs) abnormally causing the stimulation of the thyroid gland. In fact, Graves’ disease is the highest cause of hyperthyroidism in the U.S.

Normally, the function of the thyroid gland is produce thyroid hormones that regulates and controls almost all the activities in the body. When a person has Graves’ disease, the person will begin to produce abnormal antibodies that will cause the thyroid to produce more than enough thyroid hormones such that there is excess production of thyroid hormones in the body.

When there is excess production of thyroid hormones in the body, it will lead to hyperthyroidism which will then directly lead to an elevated level of the metabolic rate in the body.

Hence, the person’s metabolism rate will speed up and then skyrocket. Because the production of thyroid hormones is needed all over the body, the effects of hyperthyroidism will be felt all over the body.

Graves disease is a very treatable disease once it is detected early and on time. Although the exact cause of this disease isn’t known but heredity or genetic factors can serve as a predisposing factor for getting this disease.

It has been seen that Graves disease is diagnosed predominantly more in females than in males. Females between the age of 30-50 years are more likely to be diagnosed of this disease.

Those who also have a family member suffering from the disease or have suffered from the disease also are more predisposed to getting this disease. People who tend to have higher risks of this disease include the following;

  1. People who have been immune compromised or people who already have an underlying autoimmune disease are more likely to be diagnosed of getting Graves’ disease. People who have autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and any other autoimmune disease should really be very cautious and go for tests regularly to detect this disease.
  2. Anyone who is under severe stress either mentally or emotionally or health wise can also trigger the release of this antibodies and can be prone to getting this disease.
  3. A female who is pregnant or who has just delivered can also be in danger of this disease. This is because during pregnancy, there is an increase in the production of the thyroid hormones which can lead to hyperthyroidism.

Women who have issues with their thyroid regulation and balance should ensure that they treat very well before getting pregnant else it can be very fatal to both mother and child. Women who smoke cigarettes or marijuana also have a greater chance of getting this disease.

There are several symptoms to look out (for when you are suspecting Graves’ disease and they include:

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One major symptom of Graves’ disease is hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a disease linked to Graves disease and hence the symptoms of hyperthyroidism should be expected when having Graves’ disease.

The major signs one should look out for include irregular and racing heartbeats, severe hand tremors, trouble going to sleep, muscle weakness and in extreme cases muscle loss, heat intolerance etc.

Another major symptom to be expected is eye disease and eye problems. Graves disease causes severe inflammation and swelling of the tissues around the eyes which will lead to a bulging eye.

This condition is known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy or Graves’ Orbitopathy. Graves is the only disease that is associated with hyperthyroidism that can cause problems to the eyes.

About 25%-30% of people with Graves disease usually presents with eye issues with symptoms such as bulging eyes, pain in the eyes, double vision, hyper sensitivity to light, inflammation of the eyes characterized by redness, and ultimately loss of vision partially or completely.

Graves' Disease
NEW YORK, NY – JULY 13: American Television host Wendy Williams visits “Shade 45” hosted by Sway at SiriusXM Studios on July 13, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

Graves orbitopathy occurs when cells from the tissues of the eyes are being attacked by antibodies from the immune system. Smoking increase one’s chance of Graves’ orbitopathy.

  1. Though very unusual and uncommon, reddening of the skin may occur. This is called Graves’ dermopathy. It can be very painful though in unusual cases but most of the times, it is usually mild and painless.
  2. Goiter which is also a symptom of hyperthyroidism.

There are certain ways that Graves affects women and they include

  • It causes menstrual problems and irregularities in one’s menstrual cycle. It will also cause light periods.
  • Due to the irregular periods, getting pregnant might be a problem. Almost all the women who have been diagnosed with Graves’ disease have issues getting pregnant.
  • Graves disease can also be an issue after delivery.

Some complications that may occur due to Graves disease if it is not treated properly include:

Thyroid storm

it is a very rare, but it is a serious life-threatening condition. It is also known as thyrotoxin storm. It is mostly caused when severe hyperthyroidism is not treated or is treated very poorly. This occurs when there is a sudden surge of the thyroid hormones in the body.

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This surge can produce a lot of effects ranging from mild to severe. These symptoms include severe fever, vomiting, diarrhea, severe sweating, muscle weakness and delirium etc. If left untreated, it can lead to coma hence it requires immediate medical attention and invariable medical treatment.

Brittle bones

when Graves disease is not treated, it will lead to weak bones or osteoporosis. The strength of one’s bones depends on the amount of calcium that gets into the bone to be utilized. When there is hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease, the surge of thyroid hormones will interfere with the way the body most especially the bones get calcium.

This will therefore cause the bones to have a reduced calcium supply hence weakening the bones and therefore causing brittle bones or osteoporosis.

Abnormal Heart beats and heart disorders

A surge of thyroid hormones gotten from Graves disease can lead to arrhythmia and also cause the muscles to begin to function abnormally. It can also lead to congestive heart failure which is caused by the inability of the heart to adequately pump blood around the body. It can also lead to the weakening of the heart muscles and invariably lead to stroke.

It can also lead to severe complications during pregnancy

Complications such as miscarriages, preterm Labor and birth which can lead to giving birth to a dead child, maternal heart failure and an increase in maternal blood pressure which can cause preeclampsia.

Note: Even though women are the most affected, when Graves disease affects men, it’s usually very fatal.

When experiencing any of these symptoms, the best thing is to visit your doctor and make a complaint so that the appropriate treatment can be administered.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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