Graves’ disease refers to a severe autoimmune disorder that leads to the overproduction of thyroid hormones, which is also known as hyperthyroidism. There are other disorders that can cause hyperthyroidism although Graves’ disease is a major culprit.
Since thyroid hormones regulate various body systems, signs and symptoms related to Graves’s disease are wide-ranging and may significantly impact your overall wellbeing. Graves’s disease can affect anyone regardless of age or gender. However, it is common among women and normally occurs before the age of 40.
Signs and Symptoms of Graves’ Disease
The most common signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease include:
• Goiter or enlargement of your thyroid gland
• Tremors of the fingers or hands
• Irritability and anxiety
• Increased heat sensitivity and perspiration
• Weight loss without changes in dietary habits
• Bulging eyes
• Frequent bowel movement
• Reduced libido or erectile dysfunction
• Rapid or irregular heartbeat
• Women experience changes in monthly periods
• Skin reddening and thickening especially of the shins on top of the feet
When To Seek Medical Assistance
It is worth noting that there are several medical conditions that can trigger the signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease. You should contact your doctor if you notice any potential symptoms related to Graves’ disease. This will help you to get an accurate diagnosis before the condition proliferates.
Get an emergency check up if you experience heart-related signs and symptoms, including palpitation (rapid or irregular heartbeat), or if you develop vision complications.
Causes of Graves’ Disease
Graves’s disease occurs when the body’s disease-fighting immune system malfunctions. However, it is still unclear this happens.
One of the most vital functions of your immune system is to produce antibodies which target specific pathogens such as foreign substances, viruses, and bacterium. For some reasons that are not well identified, the body of a patient with Graves’ disease produces an antibody to only one part of the cells in the thyroid gland in the neck.
Under normal circumstances, thyroid function is controlled by a hormone produced by pituitary gland, a tiny gland located at the base of the brain. Thyrotropin is the hormone associated with Graves’ disease while thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb) regulates the function of the pituitary hormone. When TRAb overrides the normal regulation of the thyroid, it triggers an overproduction of thyroid hormones, a condition known as hyperthyroidism.
Diagnosis of Graves’ Disease
The diagnosis of Graves’s disease involves the following:
•Physical examination: Your doctor will examine your eyes to find out if they are irritated and checks if your thyroid gland is enlarged. S/he may also check your pulse and blood pressure because the disorder increases your metabolism and causes fine tremors in your hands or fingers
•Blood tests: These help to determine the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone and the pituitary hormones that regulate the thyroid function.
•Radioactive iodine uptake test: Your body requires iodine to produce thyroid hormones. You may be given a small amount of radioactive iodine which is later checked using a specialized camera to determine the rate at which it is being absorbed.
• Ultrasound: This uses high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of structures inside your body. It can help in finding out if the thyroid is enlarged, particularly in patients who can’t undergo radioactive iodine uptake test, such as expectant women.
•Imaging tests: This uses imaging tests like MRI or CT scan if clinical assessment fails to diagnose Graves’ disease.
Risk Factors of Graves’ Disease
Anyone can develop Graves’ disease but there are some factors that can increase the risk of the condition. They include:
You are at an increased risk of developing Graves’ disease if you have a family history of the condition. There are genes or a gene that can make a person vulnerable to this disorder.
Women are more likely to develop this disorder than men.
Graves’ disease normally afflicts people who are younger than 40.
Underlying medical disorder
If you have an autoimmune disorder, like rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes, you are at a higher risk of Graves’ disease.
Physical or emotional stress
Stressful life events or chronic illness can act as a trigger for the development of Graves’ disease if you are genetically vulnerable.
Childbirth or pregnancy can increase the risk of the condition, especially if a woman is genetically susceptible.
Tobacco use or smoking negatively impacts the immune system which can make you vulnerable to this disorder.
How to Manage Graves’s Disease Naturally
You can naturally manage and prevent Graves’ disease using the following methods:
• Manage your stress levels
• Consume foods with anti-inflammatory properties
• Exercise regularly
• Quit smoking
• Avoid environmental toxins
• Treat sensitivity to your eyes and skin
• Speak with your doctor about complications associated with Graves’ disease.
Edited by: Jessa (March 2, 2019)