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Graves Disease: An Autoimmune Disease Affecting the Thyroid

Graves Disease: An Autoimmune Disease Affecting the Thyroid
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Graves Disease

autoimmune diseases

Graves Disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the functioning of the thyroid gland. It is known as the leading cause of hyperthyroidism and a common cause of enlarged thyroid. It is found more often in females than males.

What Causes Graves Disease?

While the exact cause of Graves Disease is unknown, it is though to be hereditary since many patients have parents with the disease. Developing Graves Disease has also been linked to already having another autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Types of Graves Disease

There is only one known type of Graves Disease.

graves disease symptoms

Symptoms of Graves Disease

Since Graves Diseases affects the thyroid, which plays a part in many functions in the body, symptoms are often wide-ranging.

  • Irritability
  • Fast heart rate
  • Bulging eyes
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Eye twitching
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Hand tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Skin rashes

Diagnosing Graves Disease

Since Graves Disease has such wide-ranging symptoms, it is often misdiagnosed as other conditions. The first step in diagnosing Graves Disease is a thorough physical examination. A physical examination can reveal signs such as bulging eyes and skin rashes. Blood panels are important in diagnosing Graves Disease because they assess thyroid hormone levels. Another test is a radioactive iodine uptake scan, or RAIU.  An RAIU examines how much iodine the thyroid absorbs and whether or not is overactive. To complete an RAIU scan, the patient must consume an iodine pill approximately 4 to 6 hours prior to the thyroid being scanned. One scan is performed after swallowing the pill and then another scan is performed 24 hours later. The scan measures the amount of iodine that is absorbed by the thyroid. An increased iodine uptake is indicative of hyperthyroidism or Graves Disease.

facts about graves disease

Treating Graves Disease

Treating Graves Disease consists of medication, lifestyle changes, and in some cases surgery. Patients may be given anti-thyroid medication to limit the increased hormone being produced by the thyroid. Patients can also take medications to treat certain symptoms of Graves Disease, such as beta blockers to control an increased heart rate. Another treatment for Graves Disease is radioactive iodine therapy. In radioactive iodine therapy, the patient consumes pills that will effectively destroy cells of the thyroid and stop its ability to produce hormones. In severe cases of Graves Disease, the thyroid may need to be surgically removed.

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