Anxiety, Fatigue, Heat Intolerance and Other Telltale Signs of Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease, also referred to as Basedow’s disease is an immune system disorder that affects the thyroid gland.

The disease is caused by a malfunction in the body’s immune system that creates antibodies known as thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI); which attach themselves to healthy thyroid cells and mimics the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).   This causes the affected cells to work overtime in overproducing and releasing thyroid hormones.

When the body produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism), it can have a negative impact and lead to symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, weight loss and anxiety. Many of these symptoms can be found in a person diagnosed with Graves’ disease along with the following common signs:

  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland
  • Changes or irregularities in menstrual cycles
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Fatigue
  • Bulging eyes (Graves’ ophthalmology)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Thick, red skin (Graves’ dermopathy)

Although it is possible for anyone to develop Graves’ disease, some people are more at risk than others. Factors that could increase the risk of the disease include:

  • Age- Individuals under the age of 40
  • Pregnancy- Pregnancy or recent childbirth in women who are genetically susceptible
  • Smoking- Smokers have an increased  risk of Graves’ ophthalmology because the immune system is compromised
  • Gender- Women are seven to eight times more likely to develop the disease than men
  • Living with other autoimmune disorders- People with diseases such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis  that compromise the immune system are  more  at risk

If you are at risk or experiencing symptoms, an endocrinologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the body’s hormone- secreting glands can assess your medical history and conduct an examination.  If it is determined that you do have Graves’ disease, your doctor may recommend a course of treatment that is best for you.

There are typically three options for treating patients with Graves’ disease that include: medication, radioiodine therapy or thyroid surgery. The most common approach for treatment is radioiodine therapy.   In addition to treatment, your doctor may also suggest making changes in your lifestyle such as improving your diet.

To schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call, 718 206 7001.

Information About Thyroid Disease

The thyroid gland serves many functions. It regulates our rate of metabolism, growth and development, and our body temperature. So when it isn’t working properly it can have a major impact on our health.

ThinkstockPhotos-505568323According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), thyroid disease is a more common disorder than diabetes or heart disease. It affects as many as 30 million Americans, more than half of whom remain undiagnosed. To raise awareness about the thyroid gland and symptoms of thyroid disease, January has been designated Thyroid Awareness Month.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck.. Although small in size, the gland plays a large role by producing thyroid hormone which influences the function of many of the body’s most important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. When the thyroid gland is not producing the right amount of hormone (either too much or too little), problems can start to arise.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones. This can result in a range of symptoms that include unexplained fatigue, weight gain, depression, forgetfulness, feeling cold, hair loss, or low sex drive. Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, is a condition when the body produces an abundance of thyroid hormones. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include rapid heart rate, heat intolerance and unexplained weight loss and anxiety. For both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, medication can be prescribed to regulate hormone levels.

A more serious concern involving the thyroid gland is thyroid cancer, which can develop independent of the above thyroid disease. According to the AACE, about 60,000 cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed annually in the U.S. In most cases, thyroid cancer has a good prognosis and high survival rates—especially when diagnosed in its early stages.

Through attention raised by Thyroid Awareness Month, more and more primary care physicians are screening for thyroid disease, which has greatly helped those who would have otherwise had their condition go undiagnosed.

Jamaica Hospital is proud to help raise awareness for thyroid disease and encourages everyone experiencing symptoms to ask their doctor to do an evaluation. If you do not have a doctor, call Jamaica Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center to make an appointment at 718-206-7001.