Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease characterized by a metabolic imbalance resulting from overproduction of thyroid hormones (thyrotoxicosis). Graves’ disease is rarely life-threatening. Graves’ disease is more common in women and usually starts after age 20. Graves’ disease can have a result on various parts of the body such as the nervous system, eyes, skin, hair/nails, lungs, digestive system, muscles/bones and reproductive system. Graves’s disease is the most familiar cause of hyperthyroidism. The production of thyroid hormone is augmented, causing a broad range of symptoms from nervousness and restlessness to insomnia and weight loss.
Graves’s disease is caused by an abnormal immune system response that attacks the thyroid gland, and causes too much production of thyroid hormones. Risk factors are being a woman over 20 years old, although the disorder may arise at any age and may involve men as well. Normally, the symptoms of Graves’ disease are identical to the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, a condition that can be caused by Graves’ disease. Classic symptoms comprise an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), anxiety, heat intolerance, weight loss, sweating, diarrhea, tremors, palpitations and exophthalmos.
Thyroid storm, a complication of Graves’ disease, may lead to life-threatening heart, liver, or kidney failure. Thyroid storm begins suddenly and may be caused by a stressful event. The signs and symptoms of thyroid storm comprise extreme irritability, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, vomiting, high fever, delirium and coma. Left untreated, it can be fatal. Treatment involves alleviation of symptoms and correction of the thyrotoxic state. Beta-blockers such as propranolol are frequently employed to treat symptoms of rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety until the hyperthyroidism is controlled.
Hyperthyroidism is treated with antithyroid medications, radioactive iodine, or surgery. Thyroidectomy is surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland. Surgery is the preferred treatment for people with a huge goiter who chronically relapse after drug therapy. Other treatment of Graves ‘disease includes antithyroid drugs which diminish the production of thyroid hormone. Taping the eyes closed at night to prevent drying may sometimes be required. Sunglasses and eye drops may reduce irritation of the eyes. Rarely, surgery may be required to return the eyes to their normal position.