Grave's disease

What is Graves’ disease?

    Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder characterized by excessive production of thyroid hormones, leading to hyperthyroidism. While several conditions can cause hyperthyroidism, Graves' disease is a prevalent culprit.

    Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, so the symptoms of Graves' disease can manifest across multiple systems. Although this condition can affect individuals of any gender, it is more frequently diagnosed in women and individuals under 40 years of age.

    Treatment primarily aims to normalize thyroid hormone levels and alleviate the intensity of symptoms.

What are the causes of Graves’ disease?

    The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) suggests that while the exact causes remain uncertain, Graves' disease may arise from a blend of genetic predisposition and external factors like viral infections. Those with a familial history of the disorder are at higher risk of developing it.

    Additionally, individuals with other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anaemia, lupus, Addison's disease, celiac disease, vitiligo, and type 1 diabetes, may have an elevated likelihood of developing Graves' disease.

What are the risk factors of Graves’ disease?

    Several factors can influence your likelihood of developing Graves' disease:

    1. Genetics: Having a family history of the condition increases your risk.

    2. Stress: Stressful life events or periods may contribute to the onset of Graves' disease.

    3. Age: The disease commonly manifests in individuals under the age of 40.

    4. Gender: Women are significantly more prone to Graves' disease, with a prevalence 7 to 8 times higher than in men.

    5. Coexisting autoimmune disorders: Having another autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, or Crohn's disease can elevate your risk of developing Graves' disease.

What are the symptoms of Graves’ disease?

    Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism often present with similar symptoms, including:

    1. Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)

    2. Hand tremors

    3. Heat sensitivity or intolerance

    4. Weight loss

    5. Sleep disturbances and fatigue

    6. Nervousness and irritability

    7. Muscle weakness

    8. Goitre (swelling in the thyroid gland)

    9. Frequent bowel movements

    10. Irregular menstrual periods

    11. Difficulty conceiving

    12. Graves' dermopathy: Some individuals with Graves' disease may experience reddened, thickened skin around the shins or tops of the feet, causing mild discomfort.

    13. Graves' ophthalmopathy (GO): This condition involves inflammation of eye tissue and muscles, leading to swollen eye sockets and protruding eyes (exophthalmos). Additional symptoms may include blurred or double vision, dry or irritated eyes, light sensitivity, and eye pain or pressure.

    Approximately 30% of individuals with Graves' disease develop mild GO, while up to 5% experience more severe symptoms. Although mild cases may improve spontaneously, informing your healthcare provider about any eye-related symptoms is crucial to prevent potential complications like vision loss. Follow your care team's guidance for appropriate management.

What are the complications of Graves’ disease?

    Complications associated with Graves' disease can include:

    1. Pregnancy complications: Graves' disease can lead to various pregnancy issues such as miscarriage, preterm birth, foetal thyroid dysfunction, poor foetal growth, maternal heart failure, and preeclampsia—a maternal condition characterized by high blood pressure and other severe symptoms.

    2. Heart disorders: If left untreated, Graves' disease may result in heart rhythm disturbances, structural and functional changes in the heart muscles, and heart failure—wherein the heart fails to pump blood throughout the body adequately.

    3. Thyroid storm: A rare yet life-threatening complication of Graves' disease is a thyroid storm, also called accelerated hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxic crisis. This condition, more likely to occur with severe untreated or inadequately treated hyperthyroidism, manifests as a sudden and severe increase in thyroid hormones. Symptoms include fever, sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, delirium, weakness, seizures, irregular heartbeat, jaundice, severe low blood pressure, and coma. A thyroid storm necessitates immediate emergency medical attention.

    4. Osteoporosis: Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to weakened and brittle bones, a condition known as osteoporosis. The integrity of bones relies on sufficient calcium and other minerals. Excessive thyroid hormone levels can disrupt the body's ability to incorporate calcium into the bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

When to see the doctor

    Several medical conditions can present symptoms similar to those of Graves' disease. If you notice any potential issues related to Graves' disease, it's essential to consult your doctor for a timely and precise diagnosis.

    In case you experience symptoms indicative of heart complications, such as a rapid or irregular heartbeat, or if you encounter vision loss, seek immediate medical attention

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