What is Graves’ Disease and What Can You Do About It?
What is Graves’ Disease and What Can You Do About It?
Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder which causes hyperthyroidism.
What is hyperthyroidism? It’s an overproduction of thyroid hormones and Graves’ disease is a common cause of it.
Our thyroid hormones affect so many different systems within our bodies so there is a very wide range of symptoms associated with Graves’ disease. It can really influence your overall well-being.
Do I have Graves’ Disease? Signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease below:
- Do you feel more tired or fatigued?
- Are you anxious or find yourself irritable?
- Do your hands or fingers shake? (tiny tremors)
- Do you feel heart palpitations? Or a faster heartbeat?
- Have you lost weight quickly despite eating normally?
- Are you sensitive to heat or notice more sweat/perspiration (or that your skin is moist)?
- Do you notice more bowel movements or more frequent trips to the bathroom?
- Women: Have you noticed a change in your period/menstrual cycle?
- Men: Have you noticed a reduced desire for sex or any signs of erectile dysfunction? libido
- Do your eyes seem to be bulging? (this is called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, see below)
- Do you notice your skin being red or thicker on your shins or tops of your feet? (this is called Graves’ dermopathy, see below)
- Is your thyroid gland (goiter) enlarged?
Graves’ Can Affect Your Eyes – Ophthalmopathy
Graves’ causes inflammation and other immune system events which may affect muscles and other tissues around your eyes. This does not happen to everyone with Graves’ but 30% of Graves’ disease patients do show some symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy. Signs:
- Bulging eyes (this is called “exophthalmos”)
- Puffy eyelids
- Retracted eyelids
- Eye pressure or eye pain
- Sensitivity to Light
- A feeling of something gritty in your eyes
- Red eyes
- Inflamed eyes
- Double vision
- Vision loss
Graves’ Can Also Affect Your Skin – Dermopathy
Although it’s uncommon, Graves’ dermopathy is the reddening and thickening of the skin, which is usually something that happens on your shins or the tops of your feet.
Is Graves’ Genetic?
In summary, Graves’ disease can affect anyone, but it is most common in women before the age of 40.
Reasons you’d be more likely to get Graves’ disease:
- Family History: Yes, it’s genetic.
- Gender: Women are much more likely to develop it than men.
- Under 40: Graves’ disease usually develops if you are younger than 40.
- Stressed? Illnesses or other stressful life events may be a catalyst for Graves’ disease or trigger the onset of it if you are genetically susceptible.
- Other autoimmune disorders? If you have other immune system disorders, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, you have an increased risk of Graves’.
- Smoker? Cigarette smoking increases the risk of Graves’. If you are a smoker with Graves’ disease you also have a higher risk that it’ll affect your eyes (ophthalmopathy).
- Pregnant? If you’ve recently gone through childbirth or are pregnant, this may increase the risk of Graves’ (especially among if you are a genetically susceptible woman)
Can Graves’ Get More Complicated? Yes, in certain situations. Complications of Graves’ disease include:
- Graves’ Can Cause Heart Disorders. If it is not properly taken care of or treated, Graves’ disease could cause heart rhythm disorders, affect the functions of your heart muscles, cause changes in the structure of the heart muscles, and even cause congestive heart failure (because it does not allow the heart to pump enough blood to the body).
- Graves’ Can Cause Pregnancy Issues. Graves’ disease during pregnancy can include preeclampsia (high blood pressure), preterm birth, fetal thyroid dysfunction, poor fetal growth, maternal heart failure and miscarriage.
- Graves’ Can Make Your Affect Your Bones. When hyperthyroidism is not properly treated, it can lead to osteoporosis which is weak or brittle bones. Your bones need calcium and other minerals to remain strong and when you have too much thyroid hormone it gets in the way of your body’s ability to move calcium into your bones.
- Graves’ Can Cause “Thyroid Storm”. This is otherwise known as accelerated hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxic crisis. This is rare but a life-threatening complication of Graves’ disease which calls for immediate, emergency care. It is more likely when hyperthyroidism is sever and not treated. A sudden increase in thyroid hormones can produce several effects which include these signs of Thyroid Storm:
- Vomiting, fever, diarrhea, profuse sweating, severe weakness, delirium, seizures, irregular heartbeat, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), extremely low blood pressure, and coma.
What Can I Do About Graves’? How Is Graves’ Disease Treated?
The primary treatment goals are to reduce the overproduction of thyroid hormones and minimize the severity of symptoms. We can help!
There is now hope for Thyroid Eye Disease in a new drug that was just FDA approved this year: Tepezza (Teprotumumab-trbw) which is used for the treatment of adults with thyroid eye disease. It is the first drug approved for the treatment of thyroid eye disease and we will be debuting it at our center in Miami Dade for the first time in the coming weeks! Please stay tuned and if you would like to schedule an evaluation with our Oculoplastic Specialist, Dr. Ana Carolina Victoria, please call 305-598-2020 today!