Diagnostic and Treatment Methods for Graves’ Disease

Thyroid Test

Story at-a-glance -

  • Some conventional Graves' disease treatments may have negative drawbacks that may further worsen your health
  • There are some natural ways that can help treat and improve the condition of patients with Graves' disease

The most important thing to make sure of if you suspect that you have Graves’ disease is to become familiar with its symptoms. But in rare cases, the diagnosis of Graves’ disease becomes complicated when it coexists with another condition or disorder.

Graves’ is also usually overlooked in senior patients because they think the symptoms are only part of another condition. This can be resolved through differential diagnosis, or the medical differentiation between two diseases with the same symptoms.1

How Is Graves’ Disease Diagnosed?

In diagnosing this condition, hyperthyroidism should be the first focus. If the patient has hyperthyroidism, it should be determined if it was caused by Graves’ disease.

There are various symptoms that can point to Graves’ disease, but taking hormone tests will ensure that you’re diagnosed correctly. These include:

TSH Test. It measures the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), the hormone that the pituitary gland secretes to trigger the synthesis of thyroid hormones.

Low blood levels of this hormone means that there is a high amount of thyroid hormones present in your blood, but this test can also indicate a problem with the pituitary gland.2

Free T4 Test. This test measures the levels of free thyroxine (T4) in the blood. This is more reliable because the levels of free T4 in the blood cannot be influenced by external factors like pregnancy, estrogen and androgen therapy.3

T3 Test. This is done to diagnose hyperthyroidism and its severity. It measures the amount of both free and bound T3 in your blood. High levels of T3 in the blood are usually indicative of Graves’ disease or other thyroid disorders.

Before undergoing a T3 test, remember that certain drugs and medications can affect your T3 levels, including steroids and birth control pills, as they can alter the hormone levels in the blood.4

While thyroid testing is usually overlooked during your check-ups, you should keep in mind that it is a good idea to make sure that your thyroid is working well. This will ensure that you’re not unknowingly compromising your health by ignoring this gland.

How Do You Treat Graves’ Disease?

Conventional treatments for Graves' disease focus on how to cut the hormone production of the thyroid. While these may keep the symptoms from showing, they do not stop the onset of the disease itself. Plus, some of these conventional treatments may have negative drawbacks that may further worsen your health:

Radioiodine therapy. This consists of radiated iodine taken orally in order to shut down the abnormal cells in the thyroid gland that cause the disease. Although this is the most common treatment, studies show that it poses serious threats to the patient by killing off more thyroid cells than needed, posing the threat of replacing Graves’ disease with hypothyroidism.5

It has also caused women to have a higher susceptibility to developing breast cancer. A study showed that 53 percent of women who underwent radioiodine therapy had a higher chance of developing breast cancer compared to the women who never underwent this therapy.6

Anti-thyroid medications. These drugs work by blocking the iodine use of the thyroid gland, thus limiting the amount of thyroid hormones that it synthesizes. This medication is usually taken for an extended period of time, but even so, there is still a high probability of a relapse. Meanwhile, beta-blockers, another class of this medication, do not treat the disease itself, but only keep the symptoms manageable.7

Thyroid surgery. This treatment requires removing the entire thyroid in order to cut your supply of thyroid hormones. This is usually done when patients remain unresponsive to other modes of treatment.

However, total removal of the thyroid gland will require the patient to be permanently dependent on hormone replacement. The surgery can also damage the vocal chords and the parathyroid because of their close proximity to this gland.8

These conventional treatments for Graves' disease have been used by doctors for many years, despite their risks, which can cause irreparable damage and a permanent dependence on medication.

And if you developed Graves' ophthalmopathy with Graves’ disease, it's important to note that the treatments above do not help in improving this condition. Radiation has been shown to have a negative effect on Graves' eye disease, worsening the condition after a few rounds of therapy.

If your condition is starting to impair your vision, consult an expert and consider having orbital decompression done, which is the surgical removal of tissues and bones behind the eyes to free up space and avoid eye bulging. However, be sure that you are familiar with the numerous health repercussions that this surgery may bring you.

If the Grave’s disease is treated and you go into remission, Graves’ eye disease may improve on its own, although not completely.9, 10

Natural Ways to Treat Graves’ Disease

Instead of immediately seeking conventional treatments for Graves’ disease, it is advisable to try safer holistic remedies first. There are some natural ways that can help treat and improve the condition of patients with this disease, such as:11

Add vitamin D3 to your diet. Vitamin D3 helps regulate the immune system and limits inflammatory effects in the body. While it is not exactly clear how vitamin D3 improves Graves’ disease, it is known that the intake of vitamin D3 helps in limiting the symptoms of Graves’ disease, and in the long run, helps in its treatment.

When planning to get an adequate amount of vitamin D from sunlight, it is recommended that you get about 20 to 25 minutes direct sunlight (without sunscreen), ideally near solar noon. You can also get vitamin D from fatty fish, like wild-caught Alaskan salmon.12 Supplementing with vitamin D3 is also a good option.

Use selenium. Selenium acts as an antioxidant and influences thyroid hormone production. It also limits or inhibits oxidative stress that is usually caused by the increased amount of thyroid hormones in the blood. Selenium-deficient people also show a higher susceptibility to developing Graves’ disease.

You can incorporate selenium into your diet by consuming Brazil nuts, walnuts and cod.13 Just be sure that you eat these foods rich in selenium in moderation, because too much selenium may lead to adverse effects like selenosis (selenium poisoning).14

Supplement with L-carnitine. Taking L-carnitine helps prevent muscle weakness and other symptoms of hyperthyroidism. It has also been observed to decrease thyroid function and can serve as a preventive measure to the development of thyroid storm.

You can get L-carnitine by eating moderate amounts of grass-fed beef and pastured chicken.15 Before adding L-carnitine-rich foods to your diet, be sure that you consult a health practitioner to ensure that you’re not suffering from high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease or diabetes.16

Use bugleweed, lemon balm, motherwort and passionflower. These herbs have the ability to regulate the endocrine function in the body, which can help limit the excess production of thyroid hormones.17

Use cold compresses on the eyes. For Graves’ ophthalmopathy, putting a cold compress on the eyes can help ease the inflammation. It is also recommended that you sleep with your head elevated to reduce the pressure and the fluid buildup behind your eyes.18

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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