Boston Functional Medicine Specialist Explains Graves Disease

Graves Disease

Graves is an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism. 60-80% of hyperthyroid are cases of Graves’ disease.

Feeling extremely nervous or anxious?

Have you noticed that you sweat a lot?

Suffering from extreme tiredness or fatigue and have also noticed that your heartbeat is rapid or irregular?

Do you have hand tremors and unexplained weight loss even though you’re eating everything in sight?

Are you dealing with frequent bowel movements or diarrhea?

These are all signs of Graves’ disease, though they can also be symptoms of other illnesses.

Other symptoms of Graves’ disease include menstrual issues, such as a very light menstrual flow and infrequent periods. In some cases, people with Graves have an enlarged thyroid (a goiter).

It is estimated that between 3 and 10 million people are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism also known as an overactive thyroid.  In fact, the most common form of hyperthyroidism is  Graves’ disease that mostly affects women, who are seven times more susceptible than men.

Your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck, is responsible for a wide variety of functions throughout your body including, body temperature, heart rate, growth, energy production, and brain health. 

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, but the “autoimmune version”, Graves’ disease causing patients develop antibodies triggering receptors on the thyroid gland to continuously overproduce thyroid hormone. 

Both hyperthyroidism and Graves’s Disease speed up energy and metabolism, which might sound helpful, however this extreme acceleration causes your body to use up nutrients too quickly, causing malnutrition. 

If left untreated, both forms of hyperthyroidism can cause serious issues with your health including your heart, bones, muscles, menstrual cycle, and fertility. 

Other concerning symptoms of Graves’ disease include eye and skin issues.

Between 25 and 50 percent of people with Graves disease have Graves ophthalmopathy, eye abnormalities that include characteristic bulging eyes. Swelling, inflammation, redness, gritty sensation in the eyes, dryness, and puffy eyelids are also symptoms.

Some people develop bulging of the eyes caused by inflammation and retraction of the eyelids. In some rare cases, more serious eye issues may present such as pain and double vision.

Some people suffer from rate skin symptoms such as red, itchy skin (particularly on shins or tops of the feet), as well as sensitivity to heat.

Graves’ is typically diagnosed by several tests, starting with blood testing to check the levels of  thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) as well as free T4 and free T3 will be elevated.

Radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU) is another diagnosing a thyroid imbalance because high iodine uptake is common with Graves’ disease.

Ultrasound is also typically used to see of any nodules in more detail on the thyroid. In some cases a fine needle biopsy is require to confirm that the nodules are not cancerous.

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