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
- 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.