Graves’ Disease Symptoms

doctor examining patient’s neck

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  • Graves’ disease manifests through numerous symptoms, which include the appearance of a goiter (enlarged thyroid), sleeping problems, heat sensitivity, sudden weight loss, muscle weakness and infertility
  • Two of the most well-known symptoms of Graves’ disease are eye changes and hyperthyroidism

Graves' disease manifests through numerous symptoms, which include the appearance of a goiter (enlarged thyroid), sleeping problems, heat sensitivity, sudden weight loss, muscle weakness and infertility. Two of the most well-known symptoms of Graves' disease are eye changes and hyperthyroidism, which are discussed in detail below.1

Symptoms of Graves' Ophthalmopathy (Eye Disease)

One of the most pronounced symptoms of Graves' disease is Graves' ophthalmopathy or the uncharacteristic protruding of the eyes. About 35 to 50 percent of people with Graves' disease develop this condition,2 wherein the eyes are pushed outward because of the inflammation of tissues and muscle located behind the eye, which can also lead to the inflammation of the cornea. This can also cause intense pressure on the optic nerve, which can then lead to vision impairment.

Graves' ophthalmopathy usually starts with eye irritation, excessive tearing or dry eyes, and sensitivity to light. If not diagnosed early, it may lead to the swelling of the eye, eye movement difficulties, corneal ulceration and even blindness. While not all people with Graves' are affected by this symptom, there is no foolproof way to prevent this eye condition from developing. However, smokers have a higher predisposition to develop this symptom.

Studies have also shown that conventional treatment methods for Graves' disease, like radiation therapy, may even worsen Graves' ophthalmopathy. Using a cold compress can provide relief for mild Graves' ophthalmopathy. In severe cases where the vision of the individual is already affected, orbital decompression may be advised. This is a type of surgery wherein a bone (located between the eye sockets) and the sinuses is removed, in order to give way to the inflamed tissues that are putting pressure on the optic nerve.3

The Link Between Hyperthyroidism and Graves' Disease

Many information sites usually say that Graves' disease is a type of hyperthyroidism. But Graves' disease is actually one of the most common causes of this condition. Hyperthyroidism is characterized by the over-activity of the thyroid gland, which leads to the over-secretion of hormones in the body. The increased production of thyroid hormones not only affects the overall hormonal balance of the body, but also leads to numerous health problems.

Because these two conditions are so tightly knit, the symptoms of Graves' disease are usually identical to that of hyperthyroidism. These include:

  • Weight loss. The thyroid hormone is responsible for metabolism in humans. The dramatic increase in thyroid hormones speeds up numerous body processes and puts the body into overdrive. One of these processes is how the body converts food into energy. This means that the body burns up fat faster than normal and cannot promote weight gain even with the increased appetite that hyperthyroidism brings.4
  • Hyperthyroid myopathy, or thyrotoxic myopathy, causes muscle weakness, degeneration and fatigue. This affects 52 to 82 percent of people with hyperthyroidism.5 This is caused by the excessive amounts of thyrotoxine in the body. Immediate treatment should be sought when this symptom first appears and should not be ignored.6
  • Difficulty sleeping. Sleep troubles arise because of increased heart rate, anxiety and night sweats, which are all brought on by the overstimulation of the thyroid.7
  • Erectile dysfunction and low sex drive. Studies show that men with thyroid conditions often experience erectile dysfunction and have low sex drive. Seventy-nine percent of men with thyroid dysfunction showed some level of erectile dysfunction.8 This is because of the interaction between thyroid hormones and the different sex hormones produced in the body.

MORE ABOUT GRAVES' DISEASE

Graves' Disease: Introduction

What Is Graves' Disease?

Graves' Disease Symptoms

Graves' Disease Causes

Graves' Disease Treatment

Graves' Disease Diet

Graves' Disease FAQ

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