The Basics of Grave’s Disease

Thyroid-related diseases such as hyperthyroidism are fairly common as it can happen at any age. Although patients generally live their normal lives even with thyroid ailments, it is still best to understand the causes of a lifelong illness such as the Graves’ Disease.

What is Graves’ Disease?

Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid. Girgis et. al. wrote in 2011 that Graves’ Disease is regarded as the most common cause of hyperthyroidism as it affects 0.5% of the US population and corresponds to about 50% to 80% of its cases.

Also known as, “exophthalmic goiter”, Graves’ Disease was first described by Dr. Robert J. Graves in 1835. In Continental Europe, this disease is aptly called Basedow’s Disease after Karl Adolph van Basedow, a German physician who described the same symptoms in another patient in 1840, not knowing that it had been discovered five years earlier in the United States.

Causes of Graves’ Disease

Autoimmune in nature, Graves’ disease is caused by the malfunction in the body’s immune system. The immune system normally creates antibodies that target specific viruses. However, with the occurrence of Grave’s disease, the patient’s immune system targets the thyroid gland instead. This further sends signal to the said gland to create more hormones leading to the development of hyperthyroidism.

Some researchers also believe that there are links to genetics as most cases have been found to have been passed on in the family line. Other factors such as viral infections, smoking, and stress are also linked to a higher chance of developing Graves’ Disease.

Symptoms of Graves’ Disease

Both children and adults may develop Graves’ disease at any time in their lives and symptoms differ depending on the person’s age. Stanford Children’s Health shared that Graves’ Disease is harder to spot in children who are otherwise healthy and active as some symptoms are similar to other common illness.

Symptoms of Grave’s disease include lack of or poor concentration, fatigue, trouble swallowing, as well as rapid Pulse

Women’s Health shared other specific symptoms of Grave’s disease, which include protruding eyes, redness of the skin, especially on shins and upper feet, as well as goiter.

These and more symptoms can gradually or rapidly appear depending on the age when the patient developed the disease as well as how critical it is at the onset.

Possible Treatments of Graves’ Disease

An in-depth look at the family history and thorough physical examination can help diagnose Graves’ disease. It may be enduring, but there are possible treatments available help a patient’s suffering.

The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) shared the following standard therapies for patients with Graves’ disease:

The use of medication such as methimazole is the least invasive form of treatment for Graves’ disease. This is recommended for young patients or for pregnant women.

Widely used in the United States, it works by shrinking the thyroid t to reduce the overproduction of hormones.

Thyroidectomy or the removal of all or part of the thyroid is done for patients who have not responded well to other forms of treatment.

Regular checkup with a health professional is a must for patients affected by Graves’ Disease or any thyroid-related disorders. Best to schedule a visit as soon as any symptoms are experienced to prevent further damage to the body.

 

Citations and references:

  1. Girgis C. M., Champion B. L., Wall J. R. (2011). Current concepts in Graves’ disease. Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474632/pdf/10.1177_2042018811408488.pdf
  2. The Mayo Clinic. Graves’ disease. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/graves-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20356240
  3. Stanford Children’s Health. Graves’ Disease (Hyperthyroidism) in Children. Retrieved from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=graves-disease-hyperthyroidism-in-children-160-5
  4. Women’s Health. (Updated 2018 October 18). Graves’ disease. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/graves-disease
  5. The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Graves’ disease. Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/graves-disease/
  6. National Health Service. Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/overactive-thyroid-hyperthyroidism/

 

 

 

 

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