Excess of secretion of thyroid hormones may cause Grave’s disease. Thyroid hormone is responsible for the normal growth of the body and hypothyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormones) can cause various disorders in the body including Grave’s disease. It would significantly affect the well being of the person in many ways.
This disease is commonly found in adult women who are above 40 years and the consequences are serious and sometimes life threatening.
Anxiety, irritation, weight loss, enlargement of thyroid gland, trembling fingers or hands, rapid heartbeat, profuse sweating, heat sensitivity, lack of sleep, irregular bowel movements, reduced sex drive, missing of monthly periods and change in skin color are some of the signs of this disease.
This disease may also affect your eyes causing Grave’s opthalmopathy where one can have symptoms of dryness, irritation in the eyes, bulging of eyes, watery eyes, inflammation of the eyes, pressure inside the eyes, gritty or sand like sensation in the eyes, vision problems, sensitivity to light and ulcers on the tissue surrounding the eyes.
In case the disease affects the skin it is called Grave’s dermopathy which can cause irritation on the skin, redness and thickened layer of the skin on the shins and feet area. It is very much necessary to seek prompt medical care if you have any of the above symptoms.
Exact cause of Grave’s disease is not known. However many doctors believe that it is caused by weakened immunity or auto immune disorder wherein the body’s own immune system will start attacking the healthy cells thereby destructing them. The body produces antibodies for destroying one’s own cells triggering from thyroid gland.
When this happens, the normal production of thyroid hormone from the pituitary gland is affected and a special hormone by name Thyrotropin Receptor Antibody (TRAB) is released in excess quantity. It would deactivate the normal functions of thyroid resulting in excess of thyroxin causing hypothyroidism.
Due to over production of hormone, the body’s metabolism is affected resulting in abnormal functions of heart and nervous system causing rapid heartbeat, fever, muscular rigidity and disturbance in menstrual cycle.
The very same impact can affect the tissues of the eyes causing inflammation and pressure of tissues that surrounds the eyes.
Who are at risk ?
Grave’s disease does not spare any gender but women are largely affected with this disease when compared with men. People who have family history of this disease are likely to get this disorder. People who have underlying medical conditions like autoimmune disorder of AIDS, Diabetes or arthritis are at more risk than healthy individuals for getting Grave’s disease.
Smoking habit can normally affect the immunity of the person increasing the risk. Pregnant women will obviously have more of hormones and hence are at the risk of developing this disease. Any factors that increase the risk affect people who are genetically predisposed to this disease.
If not treated in time, Grave’s disease can produce irreversible damage. When pregnant women are affected with this disease it can affect the infant’s growth causing premature birth or other complications in the child. People with this disorder for long can get heart attack or stroke since it affects the normal functions of the heart. In case the heart fails to get enough blood it can cause congestive heart failure.
In rare cases, Grave’s disease can cause a condition called thyroid storm in which there would be excess production of hormone resulting in tremor, fatigue, confusion, rapid heartbeat and in severe condition can cause coma.
The doctor will look for the above symptoms and will do a routine blood culture for checking the level of thyroid stimulating hormone. For some patients, he may do radioactive iodine uptake procedure for determining the thyroid level.
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For many people, radioactive iodine is given orally which would block the overproduction of thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland would eventually shrink leading to reduction in the hormone production. However this method can take several weeks or even months to get completely cured. This treatment can cause side effects like inflammation of the eyes, vision problem, tender neck and lack of sex drive. The ultimate purpose of the treatment is to reduce the quantity of thyroid hormone.
Anti thyroid medicines like methimazole or propylthiouracil are given. You need to continue taking medicines as per the doctor’s advice, failing which Grave’s disease may relapse.
For some cases, beta blockers like atenolol, metoprolol and propranolol are used to control the effects of thyroid hormone in the body thereby reducing the symptoms like increased heartbeat, tremor, anxiety and bowel problems.
In case the person does not respond to any of the above methods, surgery is done to remove the thyroid gland (thyoridectomy). However he should take treatment for getting normal doses of thyroid hormone for the rest of his life.
For people who have got affected in their eyes due to this disease, ophthalmologists would give suitable drugs like corticosteroids for reducing inflammation or perform orbital decompression surgery or orbital radiotherapy for correcting the eye problems.