Graves’ disease is a condition which is also known as toxic diffuse goiter. It is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland located in front of your neck. The thyroid gland has two lobes that are connected by an isthmus. Graves’ disease usually results in hyperthyroidism. While the exact cause of Graves’ disease is unclear, experts believe that it occurs due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
There is a higher likelihood of Graves’ disease if there is positive family history. In twin studies, an affected twin increases the likelihood of the other twin having the disease by 30%. Researchers believe that the onset of Graves’ disease is possibly triggered by infection, stress, or childbirth. Those with autoimmune diseases such as diabetes type 1 and rheumatoid arthritis are also more likely to be affected. Other risk factors include smoking that can also aggravate and worsen eye issues that are involved in the condition.
The diagnosis of Graves’ disease is achieved via symptoms the patient experiences and confirmed with blood tests and radioiodine uptake. Treatment options include radioiodine therapy (taking iodine-131 orally which destroys the thyroid gland over weeks to months), thyroid surgery, and medications. The resulting hypothyroidism is then treated with synthetic thyroid hormones. Eye issues may require other types of treatments. Graves’ disease has been observed to occur in 0.5% of males and 3% of females. It usually starts between the ages of 40 to 60 years old.
Symptom #1: Graves’ Ophthalmopathy
Graves’ ophthalmopathy is also known as thyroid eye disease or thyroid-associated orbitopathy. It is an autoimmune condition that affects the orbit and periorbital (surrounding areas of the eyes). Other issues that accompany graves’ ophthalmopathy include upper eyelid retraction, swelling, redness, lid lag (a situation where the upper eyelid is higher compared to normal when looking down), conjunctivitis (inflammation of the outermost white area of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelid), and exophthalmos (bulging of the eyes out of the orbit and can occur unilateral or bilaterally).