Graves’ disease is a form of thyroid autoimmune disease characterized by diffuse hyperplasia of the thyroid gland, thyrotoxicosis due to excessive thyroid hormone synthesis, and presence of thyroid associated auto-antibodies in the serum.
Signs and Symptoms of Graves’ Disease
The following signs and symptoms are usually seen in patients with Graves’ disease (some of these are also seen in patients with hyperthyroidism but who do not have Graves’ disease):
- A goiter that is visible and palpable (can be felt by a physician).
- Eye problems (feeling of grittiness or irritation in the eye or other eye symptoms).
- Bulging, eye popping appearance.
- Heat intolerance.
- Weight loss (when the patient is not seeking to lose weight); however, about 10% of patients gain weight.
- Itching skin.
- Excessive thirst.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- AMENORRHEA (no menstrual periods) in women.
- Loss of sex drive.
Risk Factors of Graves’ disease
Graves’ disease is much more common in females; women have about five times the risk of developing the disease as do men. Children and adolescents can also develop Graves’ disease, although it is more frequently seen among adults. Often coexisting diseases and medical conditions are also seen in patients who have Graves’, including TYPE 1 DIABETES, Addison’s disease, and pernicious anemia.
Causes and symptoms of Graves’ disease
No one knows exactly what causes the body’s immune system to turn against its own healthy cells in Graves’ disease or any other autoimmune condition. The condition definitely has a tendency to run in families.
Because autoimmune problems are much more prevalent in women, some experts think hormones may be involved in the diseases process, too. But as with most other autoimmune conditions, no one knows for sure how reproductive hormones might promote autoimmunity.
Some experts suspect that environmental factors are at play as well. One study found that cigarette smoking was linked to the incidence of Graves’ in women – the more cigarette women smoked, the greater their likelihood of developing Graves’.
Other studies have suggested that emotionally stressful events may play a role in triggering Graves’ disease. Still other possible culprits include viruses, infections, pollution, and bacteria. But again, these are theories, and the exact cause of any autoimmune disease remains a mystery. Most people believe that it’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors that cause Graves’.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Graves’ disease
Graves’ disease involves a physical exam and a discussion of your symptoms. While the symptoms you reveal to your doctor may immediately suggest hyperthyroidism, changes in your eyes and an enlargement of your thyroid are usually the telltale signs that indicate you have Graves’ disease and not a form of Thyroiditis, which is an inflammation of the thyroid.
To confirm that you have Graves’ disease, however, your doctor will want to order blood tests. Low levels of TSH, combined with high levels of free T4 and free T3, will indicate that you do, indeed, have hyperthyroidism.
Tracing the cause of hyperthyroidism to Graves’ disease, however, requires other tests. Often, diagnosis also involves an RAIU (Radio-active Iodine Uptake) test that can help confirm Graves’ disease. This test involves ingesting a small amount of RAIU. Hours later, a camera is placed in front of your neck of see where the iodine is concentrated. In people with Graves’ disease, the RAIU test will reveal that the thyroid is absorbing a lot of iodine to produce thyroid hormone. The scan will show diffuse uptake of iodine over the whole gland.
Sometimes, doctors will check the blood for specific auto-antibodies. The most telling substances in the blood are the TSIs. These are sometimes referred to as thyroid stimulating anti-bodies (TSAs) or thyroid receptor anti-bodies (TRAb). These anti-bodies behave like TSH and will bind to TSH receptors in the thyroid gland, promoting them to produce thyroid hormone. But unlike TSH, TSIs do not stop the production of thyroid hormone once the levels get too high. TSIs are also responsible for thyroid eye disease.
The goal is simple: to restore thyroid hormone levels to normal. You may have RAI treatment to destroy the diseased thyroid tissue or take anti-thyroid drugs in the hopes of inducing a remission. Surgery is usually a last resort.
Some people with Graves’ disease will go into remission without medication. But this is extremely are and occurs primarily in cases where the disease is mild.
If you opt to take anti-thyroid medication, you may be able to avoid hypothyroidism, but you may continue having symptoms of hyperthyroidism. To help you decide, you should review your options carefully with your doctor and weight the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment. Your decision will also be influenced by several other factors, including personal preference, allergies to medications, previous health conditions, and whether you are pregnant.
Homeopathic treatment of Graves’ disease – Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine. The selection of remedy is based upon the theory of individualization and symptoms similarity by using holistic approach. This is the only way through which a state of complete health can be regained by removing all the sign and symptoms from which the patient is suffering. The aim of homeopathy is not only to treat Graves’ disease but to address its underlying cause and individual susceptibility. As far as therapeutic medication is concerned, several remedies are available to cure Graves ‘ disease symptoms that can be selected on the basis of cause, sensations and modalities of the complaints. For individualized remedy selection and treatment, the patient should consult a qualified homeopathic doctor in person. There are following remedies which are helpful in the treatment of Graves’ disease:
Calcarea Carb, Sulphur, Belladonna, Silicea, Nux Vomica, Ignatia, Pulsatilla, Phosphorous, Arsenic, Gelsemium, Tabacum, Sepia, Aconite, Causticum, Stramonium and many other medicines.
Ricardo V. Lloyd: Endocrine Pathology: Different Diagnosis and Molecular Advances; 185
William A. Petit, Christine A. Adamec: The encyclopedia of endocrine diseases and disorders; 105
Theodore Friedman, Theodore C. Friedman, Winnie Yu: The Everything Health Guide to Thyroid Disease: Professional Advice on; 122