Autoimmune diseases are affecting more and more people, resulting in a population that is prone to having multiple diseases which do not have a definitive treatment. Autoimmune diseases are the type of diseases where the immune system produces its own antibodies against molecules that are part of the same body structure. Therefore, the immune system starts damaging its own body cells recognizing them as foreign and dangerous. Same is the case with Graves’ disease.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder which results in an increased production of the thyroid hormones. There are many conditions that can lead to hyperthyroidism but Graves’ disease is the most common one.
Hormones produced by the thyroid gland affect many systems of the human body and this is why the symptoms presented in patients with hyperthyroidism are many in number. These symptoms could significantly affect your overall health and this is most often when patients seek medical help even though the disease was present long before. Here are some of the symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism:
- Irritability and anxiety.
- Unexplainable loss of weight despite keeping a normal diet.
- Goiter – enlargement of the thyroid gland.
- Bulging eyes or so called Graves’ ophthalmopathy.
- Constant fatigue.
- Rapid heartbeat which often can be irregular as well.
- Tremor of hands and fingers.
- Constant moist skin and increase in perspiration.
- Increased heat sensitivity.
- Changes in menstrual cycles.
- Reduced libido and erectile dysfunction.
- Increased frequency of the bowel movements.
- Graves’ dermopathy – red, thick skin on feet and shins.
Two of these symptoms are very specific for Graves’ disease. These are Graves’ ophthalmopathy and Graves’ dermopathy.
Graves’ ophthalmopathy is presented in almost 30% of patients with this disease. The inflammation and other immune related effects of the disease affect the muscles and other surrounding tissues of the eyes. These are the results:
- Puffy eyelids which may also be retracted.
- Loss of vision.
- Double vision.
- Pain or pressure in the eyes.
- Gritty sensation, as well as inflamed or reddened eyes.
- Light sensitivity.
- Exophthalmos – bulging eyes.
The second specific symptom is Graves’ dermopathy. The skin is red and thick on certain locations of the body. Most commonly it is present on the top of the feet or on the shins.
It is still unknown why the immune system starts attacking the thyroid gland. The normal function of an immune system is to produce cells that can create specific antibodies against molecules harmful to the body such as bacteria molecules, viruses, fungi, and more. However, in autoimmune diseases such as Graves’ disease the immune system starts producing antibodies against its own molecules recognizing them as foreign ones. Researches show that people with genetic predisposition who also have certain factors from the environment affecting them are the ones at high risk of developing Graves’ disease or any other autoimmune disease. Consulting us will help you search for the core reasons of your condition. Treating the causes even if it is difficult to find them is the key to overcoming the symptoms and managing the condition.
There are certain factors associated with risks of developing Graves’ disease. These risk factors are the following:
- Family history of autoimmune diseases. The risk is highest if you have a close family member with Graves’ disease. However, there is also risk if you have a family member with any other autoimmune diseases.
- Age. Graves’ disease is a common disease in younger people – under the age of 40.
- If you are pregnant or if you have recently given birth then you may have an increased risk of getting this disorder, especially if there are other risk factors from the list in your life.
- There is enough proof that cigarette smoke affects the immune system and it may alter its normal function.
- Emotional stress. Illnesses and other stressful life events may be enough factors to trigger the onset of Graves’ disease or other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes.
- Graves’ disease is more common in women than in men.
- Having other autoimmune diseases. It is common for patients who already have one autoimmune disease to develop another one due to the alterations in their immune system.
If you experience any of the symptoms or have these risk factors, consulting with a specialist for testing is highly recommended. Graves’ disease can cause serious complications and needs to be properly treated and managed. However, it is common for patients to receive many different treatments without a significant success in improvement. This is why seeking the root causes is very important and we can help you do that while still following the instruction of your physician.