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What is Graves’ disease?

Graves’ disease is a condition that affects the thyroid gland and leads to the excess production of thyroid hormones. This is an autoimmune condition where the antibodies called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI), which normally fight against foreign particles, act on the cells of the thyroid gland and cause increased release of thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland is butterfly shaped and is located in the lower region of the front of your neck. The hormones released by the thyroid gland are necessary to provide energy and for the proper functioning of other organs.

According to Indian statistics, the incidence of Graves’ disease is higher in women than in men.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

You may start experiencing symptoms slowly, or they can appear suddenly. The commonly observed symptoms of Grave's disease are:

If the immune system has affected the eye cells,  The following symptoms may be experienced:

In rare cases, thick, red spots appear on the skin below the knees and sometimes on the feet.

What are its main causes?

This is an autoimmune disease that causes the antibodies in our blood to bind to thyroid cells and produce excess thyroid hormone. This condition mainly affects women in age group 30-50 years. The exact cause of the condition is unknown.

The risk of developing Graves’ disease increases if you:

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Your doctor will initially perform a physical examination to identify any swelling in the neck and order for blood tests to detect the level of thyroid hormones (T3, T4, and TSH) and antibodies (TSI) in your body. The doctor may also recommend an imaging test called the radioactive iodine uptake test (RAIU) to find out how much iodine the thyroid gland takes up in a specific time.

Available treatment for Graves’ disease includes medicines like anti-thyroid drugs, radioiodine therapy, and thyroid surgery. Your doctor will select an appropriate treatment plan based on your condition. Thyroid surgery is the last option for when you are pregnant, have an allergic reaction, side effects to anti-thyroid medications or when your glands have become very large.

Regular monitoring of the thyroid levels in our body helps in better planning the treatment of the condition.

  1. Medicines for Graves' Disease

References

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. [Internet]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Graves' Disease
  2. American Thyroid Association. [Internet]. Leesburg, United States; 1923. Graves’ Disease.
  3. Office on Women's Health [Internet] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Graves' disease.
  4. National Organization for Rare Disorders. [Internet]. Danbury; Graves’ Disease
  5. Usha V. Menon. Thyroid disorders in India: An epidemiological perspective. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jul; 15(Suppl2): S78–S81. PMID: 21966658.
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