Graves disease is one of the most common thyroid disorders. The autoimmune disease causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland. The condition is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland. The excess thyroid hormone made by a hyperactive gland causes various issues throughout the body. Experts do not know what causes the thyroid to act abnormally in people with Graves disease, but researchers have developed several treatments, which primarily aim to decrease the hormones in the system.
Graves ophthalmology describes painful pressure in the eyes and can cause redness and irritation. People with this symptom experience retracted or puffy eyelids or bulging eyes and may experience blurry or double vision. Left untreated, it can cause loss of light sensitivity and even vision loss. This is one of the more common signs of Graves disease.
People with Graves disease often develop thicker skin on the shins and tops of the feet. This symptom, called Graves dermopathy, is characterized by the build-up of carbohydrates on the skin.
Goiters are a sure sign something is wrong with the thyroid. In people with Graves disease, the antibodies that are mistakenly attacking the thyroid gland overstimulate it, leading to noticeable swelling of the gland that is visible externally.
Too much thyroid hormone can make people lose too much weight too quickly. When the hormone builds up, it jumpstarts the processing of food. As a result, many of the nutrients consumed bypass the system and cannot provide their usual benefits. The body reads this as an extreme diet or starvation and begins burning fat.
Graves also causes insomnia, which results in people with the condition having difficulty falling asleep, sleeping poorly and not feeling rested, or both. Because insomnia is such a common issue, with many causes, not everyone with Graves disease, or their doctors, immediately recognize the cause of their sleep problems; some live with it for years before being diagnosed.
A small percentage of people with Graves disease experience involuntary hand tremors. This sign usually occurs infrequently and remains relatively minor, but recurring tremors are a sign of numerous conditions and should be reported to a doctor. People with persistent tremors can take medications to relieve the symptom.
Heavy sweating is a common and significant sign of Graves disease. People with the condition will often perspire regardless of the temperature in the room, and also begin sweating with the slightest exertion, such as climbing a flight of stairs or walking a short distance.
A frequent need to go to the bathroom is another common sign of Graves disease. Much like weight loss, this happens because the excess thyroid hormone raises metabolism. The faster pace churns the GI tract more quickly than usual. Digestion speeds up, and the urge to go may become overwhelming. Some people with the condition need to void their bowels after every meal or snack.
Thyroid gland secretions also have an impact on the way the heart works. When the body makes too much thyroid hormone, blood pumps faster. This forces the heart and lungs to work harder. People with Graves disease often feel out of breath with physical exertion and may experience palpitations.
Women with Graves disease usually experience menstrual problems that affect the regularity of their cycle. Their periods may occur sporadically, lasting a short time in some instances, and for an extended period in others. Many women ignore this sign, especially young adults whose cycles are still regulating. Women who experience this symptom in conjunction with others related to Graves diseases, however, should be tested for this or another medical condition.
People with Graves disease may have decreased libido and a reduced interest in sexual activity and may fail to experience arousal even when sexually stimulated. Some women develop vaginal dryness, while men can have erectile dysfunction. These symptoms are a result of too much thyroid hormone in the blood, and a doctor can prescribe medications that can help.
Thyroid secretions also impact the production of chemicals in the brain, which in turn affects mood. Excess thyroid in the body causes chemical fluctuations in the brain, which often cause people to become more anxious, nervous, and even irritable. Panic attacks and angry outbursts are also possible in people with Graves disease.
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