Graves disease is a disease caused by a malfunction of the thyroid gland.
The thyroid is a small glandular organ shaped like a butterfly with two conical lobes that look like wings. However its relatively small size is not in proportion to its importance for your general health. The thyroid gland is actually one of the larger organs in the endocrine system – which controls the levels of hormones in your body – and the hormones that it releases are very important in regulating our metabolism, and as a result symptoms of thyroid problems can appear virtually anywhere in the body.
Thyroid problems generally fall into 3 different categories.
1. Hyperthyroidism (Graves Disease), a condition where the thyroid produces more hormones than necessary
2. Hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s Disease), when the thyroid doesn’t produce sufficient hormones
3. Enlargement or formation of nodules around the gland.
Because Graves disease (hyperthyroidism) is a condition created by the overproduction of hormones it results in a broad range of symptoms. Classic symptoms include an enlarged thyroid gland, nervousness, heat intolerance, weight loss, sweating, tremors, palpitations and exophthalmos which is a condition characterised by a swelling of the tissue behind the eyes causing protrusion of the eyeball.
In addition Graves disease can often include any of the following
- shortness of breath
- double vision
- diminished sex drive
- abnormal breast enlargement in men
- infrequent or absent menstrual periods
The most dangerous complication of Graves disease is a condition know as “Thyroid Storm”. All though it is unusual Thyroid Storm is a serious medical problem and can be life-threatening. When levels of thyroid hormones become very high in patients with hyperthyroidism it can trigger a Thyroid Storm during which the body temperature can rise to 106F and if left untreated may be followed by delirium and coma.
When it comes to Graves disease treatment, there are a number of different options which will be explored in a later post.