Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism

One of the main causes of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease.  Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disease that sees an individual’s thyroid gland as a foreign object invading the body and produces antibodies to attack the gland.  This causes the thyroid gland to produce a greater than normal amount of thyroxine.  As a person’s thyroxine level increases, the body’s metabolic rate increases as well.  A higher metabolism rate can lead to a number of health problems, including irregular heartbeat and anxiety disorders.

Graves’ Disease occurs mostly in middle-aged women, but it has also been known to occur in children and the elderly.  There is said to be a genetic predisposition of the disease, but the cause remains unknown.

Symptoms of Graves’ Disease include a sensitivity to heat, weight loss, brittle hair, restlessness, muscle weakness, increased appetite, tremors, blurred or double vision, nervousness, redness and swelling of the eyes, fatigue, changes in heart beat and sex drive. While Graves’ Disease is an incurable ailment, it is not life threatening and can very well be treated with anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine, or surgery to remove most of the thyroid gland.

While most individuals seem to do well on anti-thyroid medication, surgery may just be the best option in certain situations, such as individuals that have problems where the thyroid gland is interfering with the ability to swallow.  Radioactive iodine destroys part or all of the thyroid gland and renders it incapable of overproducing thyroxine.  The treatment consists of swallowing a pill containing radioactive iodine.  Side effects are minimal and the treatment is relatively painless.

More serious complications of Graves’ Disease are weakened heart muscle that can lead to heart failure, osteoporosis, or possible severe emotional disorders.  However, these complications are only likely to appear if Graves’ Disease is prolonged, untreated, or improperly treated.  By visiting your doctor for a checkup and discussing your symptoms and treatment options for Graves’ Disease long before your symptoms begin to turn serious, you can safely treat Graves’ Disease and live happier and healthier knowing that although there is no cure for Graves’ Disease, it can be successfully treated.

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