Graves Disease

Graves disease is named after Dr. Robert Graves, an Irish physician, who in 1833, was presented with a patient who had both goiter and exophthalmia. Since then, great discovery and treatments have been advanced in this disease of the endocrine system. Graves Disease occurs when the thyroid gland is attacked by the immune system, which in turn causes the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone than the body needs. It is seen more often in females than males, commonly after the age of 20 years.

Symptoms are consistent with increased metabolic rate, and include: cardiac involvement ( i.e. tachycardia and irregular heartrate), heat sensitivity, diaphoreses, tremors, goiter, anxiety, menstrual disruption, and weight loss, (despite excessive caloric intake).

Another pronounced symptom of Graves Disease is exophthalmia: a bulging of the eyeballs caused by swelling behind the eyes. Exophthalmia will cause mild irritation such as tearing, swelling of eylids, and photophobia; smokers are more likely to develop exophthalmia. Diagnosis of Graves Disease, after physical examination, is confirmed by blood tests for levels of thyroid stimulating hormone and thyroxine levels. Hyperthyroidism is also confirmed by a radioactive iodine uptake test. Graves Disease can be treated with medication such as propylthiouracil and methimazole for control of throxine levels. Symptoms can be treated with propanolol, atenolol, metoprolol, and nadolol.

Radioactive iodine treatment usually necessitates later supplementation of thyroxine, as does surgical removal of the thyroid. Exophthalmia is present after the disease and symptoms are resolved. Treatment includes steroids, and surgical options. Currently, there are alternative treatments for Graves Disease. Accupuncture, yoga, and naturall remedies such as lemon balm and cabbage juice are occasionaly used by sufferers of Graves Disease. Physicians should be consulted before patients consider these options.

The understanding and treatment of Graves Disease has undergone considerable advancements since its discovery in 1833. Patients today should expect a favorable prognosis.

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