Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder when your immune system attacks the thyroid gland which leads to overproduction of the hormone thyroxine (hyperthyroidism). Graves' disease may affect people of any age but it is more frequent in females who are over 20.
The symptoms of Graves' disease may includes anxiety, fatigue, sleeping disorders, irritability, irregular pulse, tremor of the hands or fingers, unexpected weigh loss, sensitivity to heat, sensitivity to light, sweating, fragile hair, irregular menstrual cycle, frequent bowel movements, goiter (enlarged thyroid gland), shortness of breath, double vision, irritation of the eyes, limited eye movement, bulged out eyeballs, breast enlargement in men and difficulties to concentrate.
In order to diagnose the condition, your doctor will perform a physical exam, blood test or radioactive iodine test. During the physical exam your doctor will check if the thyroid gland is enlarged and if there are problems with your eyes. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and if there are any other symptoms which would indicate Graves' disease. Blood test is performed in order to establish the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone and thyroxine. Radioactive iodine test is performed to determine the production of thyroxine. The doctor will give you a small dose of radioactive iodine and afterwards he/she will check the uptake of iodine. Since iodine is necessary for production of thyroxine, excessive uptake will indicate Graves' disease.The treatment for Graves' disease may include beta blockers which can relieve the symptoms such as anxiety, rapid pulse and tremor. These medications can improve the function of the thyroid gland but they do not provide a cure. Your doctor may prescribe anti-thyroid medications in order to stop the thyroid gland from hormone overproduction. This treatment can last for one or two years and the outcome is usually positive. However, Graves' disease can reoccur. Anti-thyroid medications are often combined with radioactive iodine treatment or surgery. In radioactive iodine treatment you will receive radioactive iodine which will cause the thyroid gland to reduce its size. The symptoms will decrease slowly and it will take a few months until they go away. This treatment may have some temporary side concerning the problems with your eyes. The last option for Graves' disease treatment is surgery. Your thyroid gland can be surgically removed but then you will probably need thyroxine hormone therapy. The risk of the surgery includes damage of the vocal cords and the parathyroid gland which will cause low level of calcium, and scar on the neck.