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Graves Disease


Graves disease

is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your thyroid gland. This causes your body to make too much thyroid hormone and leads to hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ that is found in the front part of your neck. Thyroid hormones regulate body temperature, heart rate, and weight.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Nervousness, irritability, fatigue, or muscle weakness
  • Trouble sleeping or increased sensitivity to heat
  • Hand tremors or increased sweating
  • An irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements than usual
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Children may have a decreased attention span that leads to a drop in school grades
  • Symptoms of Graves ophthalmology (GO) such as protruding eyeballs, puffy eyelids, double vision, light sensitivity, or pain or pressure in your eyes
  • Reddening or thickening of skin on the shins

Thyroid storm:

A thyroid storm happens when your thyroid hormone levels get too high. Your body temperature may go very high, your heart may beat very fast, and you may have problems thinking. You may have increased sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. You may have seizures or go into a coma. Thyroid storm may happen if you have hyperthyroidism and get an infection or stop taking your thyroid medicine. Injuries, burns, and certain medicines can also cause a thyroid storm.

Call 911 or have someone call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You feel like you are going to faint.
  • You have sudden chest pain or shortness of breath.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.
  • You are shaking or sweating.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual, or you have an irregular heartbeat.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • You feel nervous, restless, confused or agitated. .
  • You run out of thyroid medicine, or you have stopped taking it.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for Graves disease

may include any of the following:

  • Antithyroid medicines decrease thyroid hormone levels and your symptoms.
  • Radioactive iodine is given to damage or kill some thyroid gland cells. This may decrease the amount of thyroid hormone produced. Tell your healthcare provider if you are breastfeeding, or you know or think you are pregnant. This medicine can be harmful to your baby.
  • Heart medicine may be given to control and regulate your heart rate.
  • Treatment for eye problems may also be needed. Eye drops can help to relieve dry or irritated eyes. Steroids may be given to decrease eye swelling and pain. Special lenses may be needed if you have double vision. Radiation may be applied to your eyes to decrease swelling if you have severe eye problems.
  • Surgery may be done to remove all or part of the thyroid gland.

Manage Graves disease:

  • Do not smoke or be around secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke increases your risk of GO or can make it worse if you already have it. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can also cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Sleep with your head elevated if you have eye symptoms. This may help to decrease swelling of your eyelids. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you sleep with your eyes taped shut. This can help to prevent dry eyes.
  • Sunglasses may help decrease light sensitivity.
  • Take medicine as directed and go to follow-up appointments. Do not stop taking your medicine unless your healthcare provider has asked you to. This could increase your thyroid levels and lead to other health problems. You will need to go to regular follow-up appointments to have your thyroid levels checked.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for regular blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels. This will help your healthcare provider decide if you are getting the right amount of medicine. Do not stop taking your medicines without talking to your healthcare provider first. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.