Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that impacts the thyroid. The thyroid gland is a vital organ in the endocrine system. It is small, and is located to the front of the neck, below the voice box. The thyroid gland produces the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyonine (T3) that regulates the body’s metabolism. The condition of hyperthyroidism is a result of the body releasing too much of these thyroid hormones. Graves’ disease is the most frequent cause of this condition. This disease is most common in women over the age of 20; however, it may arise at any age, irrespective of gender. This disease occurs in women approximately eight times more often than men with the riskiest age group being from 20-40. The year of childbirth, and the following year, increase the risk of being afflicted with Graves’ disease. Another factor that increases the risk is a family history of thyroid problems, autoimmune disease, or endocrine disease.
There are many causes that may lead to Graves’ disease, such as the consumption of Thyroid hormone, whether through self medications, or accident. Certain energy drinks, and dietary supplements contains the hormone, and may result in hyperthyroidism. Having contact with an excessive amount of iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism. One may become exposed through supplements, medical tests, and topical exposure. Another cause of Graves’ disease is through medical treatments, and drugs. Medications such as antiretroviral treatment for AIDS, Interferon Beta- 1b, and lithium amongst others, have been known to trigger this condition. Patients being treated for multiple sclerosis with monoclonal antibody, have been known to develop Graves’ disease within six months of treatment. Trauma to the thyroid due to injury such as a whiplash, or surgery to the area, may also result in this condition.
Graves Disease Symptoms
There are many Graves’ disease symptoms some of them are as follows but not limited to:
- Weight Changes: Persons usually experience weight loss without exercise or dieting, they may also have an increased appetite without any weight gain. While others who normally eat a small, or restricted amount of food may at times be misdiagnosed as being anorexic.
- Pregnancy Issues: a symptom of Graves’ disease is difficulty becoming pregnant, or dramatic weight loss during, or after pregnancy.
- Goiter: This is one of the most frequent symptoms. One may notice a visibly larger neck, due to the swelling of the thyroid. The thyroid may feel as though it is vibrating or buzzing, with a slight pain to the neck.
- Temperature Issues: persons experiencing hyperthyroidism may have issues determining the correct temperature. They may feel hot, while it is actually cold, or feel warm all the time.
- Loss of Energy: Feeling the need for a little more sleep, trouble climbing stairs, and being intolerant to exercise. Muscle and joint pain may also be experienced in the leg, and arm muscles.
- Changes to the skin: The skin may actually become smoother as a result of fast cell turnover. However, others experience acne, spider veins on face and neck, and blisters on forehead, amongst other skin conditions.
- Changes to Hair and Nails: Graves’ disease symptoms include hair loss, or thinning of the hair. The nails may begin to break easily, as well as the toes and fingertips becoming enlarged. The underlying nail bed can also separate from the skin.