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What is Graves’ Disease?
Graves’ disease is one of the most common of all thyroid problems. It’s also the leading cause of hyperthyroidism, which a condition of the thyroid gland produces excessive hormones. Once the disorder has correctly diagnosed, it’s quite easy to treat. In some cases, Graves’ disease goes into remission or completely disappears after several months or years. If left untreated, however, it can lead to serious complications even death.
Although the symptoms causes discomfort, Graves’ disease generally has no long-term adverse health consequences if the patient receives prompt and proper medical care.
Symptoms of Graves’ Disease
Typical symptoms includes anxiety, shaky hands, sweating, diarrhea, increased appetite, difficulty sleeping, tremors, and weight loss. Some people with Graves’ disease can have an abnormal swelling of the front of the neck called a goiter.
Many symptoms of Graves’ disease affect the eyes. These includes eye puffiness, bulging eyes, light sensitivity, and an intense stare.
Risk Factors of Graves’ Disease
Although anyone can develop Graves’ disease, there are number of factors that can increase the risk of disease. These risk factors are as follows:
- Family history. Because a family history of Graves’ disease is a known risk factor, there’s likely a gene or genes that can make a person more susceptible to the disorder.
- Gender. Women are much more likely to develop Graves’ disease than are men.
- Age. Graves’ disease usually develops in people younger than 40.
- Other autoimmune disorders. People with other disorders of the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes, can have an increased risk.
- Emotional or physical stress. Stressful life events or illness may act as a trigger for the onset of Graves’ disease among people who are genetically susceptible.
- Pregnancy. Pregnancy or recent childbirth may increase the risk of the disorder, particularly to the women who are genetically susceptible.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking, which can affect the immune system, increasing the risk of Graves’ disease. Smokers that who have Graves’ disease are also at increased risk of developing Graves’ ophthalmopathy.
Graves’ Disease Treatment
Treatment is aimed at controlling your overactive thyroid. Medicines that called beta-blockers are often used to treat symptoms of anxiety, rapid heart rate, and sweating until the hyperthyroidism is controlled. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with one or more of the following:
- Antithyroid medications
- Radioactive iodine
If you have had surgery or radioactive iodine treatment, you will need to take replacement thyroid hormones for the rest of your life. Because these treatments remove or destroy the gland.
Some of the eye problems related to Graves disease usually improve when hyperthyroidism is treated with medications, surfery, or radiation. Radioactive iodine can sometimes worsen eye problems. Eye problems are worse in people who smokes, even after the hyperthyroidism is cured.
Sometimes prednisone (a steroid medication that suppresses the immune system) is needed to reduce eye irritation and swelling.
You may need to tape your eyes closed at night to prevent from drying. Eye drops and sunglasses may reduce eye irritation. In rare cases, radiation therapy (different from radioactive iodine) or surgery may be needed to prevent further damage to the eye and loss of vision.