Graves' disease is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroidgland becomes overactive, producing very large amounts of thyroid hormones, andcausing serious hormonal imbalance in the body. One of the primary roles of thethyroid gland, a small butterfly shaped gland found in the neck, is to regulate the rate of metabolism and thus affectthe growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. Graves' diseaseis the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in children and adolescents. Itusually occurs during the early adolescence, causing metabolic imbalances andresulting in various neuropsychological and physical signs and symptoms.
Causes of Graves' disease
Graves' disease has a powerful genetic component, and itusually affects the female population. It is estimated that somewhere around 2% ofall women worldwide suffer from Graves' disease. It is somewhere between 5 and10 times as common in females as in males. Scientists are yet unsure whatactually causes the disease. In Graves' disease, the immune system attacks thethyroid gland, by an antibody called the thyrotropin receptor antibody. Thisantibody stimulates the thyroid gland to produce excessive amounts of thyroidhormone. Hormonal disbalance causes serious metabolic problems and affects the mood,weight, and mental and physical energy levels.
Symptoms of Graves' disease
Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism,characterized by overproduction of thyroid hormone. This disease has manydifferent signs and symptoms, which are usually severe and involve every systemin the body. In most cases, the patients are extremely anxious andirritable. They feel constant fatigue and yet they have difficulty sleeping.Patient feels a fine tremor in the hands and fingers, hypersensitivity to heat,irregular heartbeat and an increase in perspiration. Many patients lose theirweight, despite normal food intake. Women will also face different changes inmenstrual cycles. The most prominent symptom is the enlarged thyroid, alsoknown as goitre, Graves' ophthalmopathy, or protrusion of the eyes, is anothercommon symptom in which the eyeballs bulge out past their protective orbit. This happenswhen the tissues and muscles behind the eyes swell and cause the eyeballs tomove forward.
Treatment for Graves' disease
There is no known cure for Graves’ disease. The treatment isaimed to alleviate the symptoms of the disease and decrease the production ofthyroxine. The antithyroid drugs are used to reduce the production of the thyroidhormone. Partial or complete destruction of the thyroid gland is another successfulmethod of treatment, completed by ingestion of radioactive iodine. Anotheroption is a partial or complete surgical removal of the gland, a process knownas thyroidectomy.