Grave-Basedow’s disease: symptoms, causes and treatment

Thyroid hormones are a substance produced by the thyroid glands. These hormones perform countless functions in our body, especially in metabolic processes, but they are best known for their role in regulating energy and body temperature.

Although without its functioning, our organism would have great difficulty in surviving, its overproduction can also involve different physical illnesses, one of which is Graves-Basedow’s disease. Therefore, we will dedicate this article to talking about what Graves disease is and its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is Graves-Basedow’s disease?

Severe disease, also known as Graves-Basedow disease, is a disease of the immune system that affects the thyroid, being the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. In other words, the excessive and abnormal production of thyroid hormones.

Because these thyroid hormones play many roles in many different body systems, the symptoms of Graves’ disease can be very varied and significantly interfere with a person’s overall health.

Of all these symptoms, the best known may be the development of an eye bulge caused by Graves’ ophthalmopathy, Which usually causes serious eye problems in 25 to 80% of those affected.

The specific causes of Graves-Basedow’s disease have yet to be elucidated. However, it is hypothesized that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is the cause of this condition. Whatever the cause, there is a treatment for this condition which may consist of radioactive iodine therapy, drug therapy, or thyroid surgery.

According to studies, severe disease appears with seven times more incidence in women than in men, with a probability of occurrence of 0.5% in men and 3% in women. Usually, the first symptoms of this disease usually appear between the ages of 40 and 60, but the reality is that anyone can be affected by it.

What are the symptoms?

As mentioned above, thyroid hormones play a key role in all metabolic and functional processes in our tissues, so any change in their production can involve countless symptoms.

In the specific case of Graves’ disease, there is an overactivation of the thyroid glands (hyperthyroidism), the symptoms of the disease are therefore linked to an excessive production of thyroid hormones.

The main symptoms of Graves’ disease are:

  • Mild tremors in the hands and fingers
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Increased sweating and / or hot, damp skin
  • Weight loss while maintaining normal eating habits
  • Swelling or enlarged thyroid glands
  • Altered menstrual cycle
  • Erectile dysfunction and / or decreased sexual desire
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Graves’ ophthalmopathy
  • Graves’ dermopathy
  • palpitations
  • Feeling tired
  • anxiety

  • irritability

Of all the above symptoms, severe ophthalmopathy and severe dermopathy are the most easily identified. We explain them below:

Graves’ ophthalmopathy

Although it doesn’t have to happen to everyone, about 30% of Graves disease cases have signs and symptoms of a condition called Graves’ ophthalmopathy. This type of damage is characterized by an alteration in the immune system which causes inflammation of the muscles and tissues surrounding the eyes. As a result, the person develops protruding eyes that are very characteristic of this disease.

In addition, this ocular alteration usually causes discomfort and symptoms related to vision. These include:

  • Sensation of sand in the eyes
  • Eye pressure or pain
  • Swollen or retracted eyelids
  • Red or swollen eyes
  • Hypersensitivity to light
  • double vision
  • Loss of vision

Severe dermatopathy

The second most visible and characteristic sign of Graves’ disease is a very rare skin manifestation, called severe dermopathy, which consists of reddening and thickening of the skin; especially at the height of the beards or at the top of the foot.

the causes

Given its autoimmune nature, Serious illness is known to be caused by a dysfunction of the immune system. However, the exact reason for this defect has not yet been determined.

In a properly functioning immune system, antibody production normally responds to the appearance of a virus, bacteria or any pathogen in order to attack. However, in serious illnesses, for reasons that are not yet understood, the body produces antibodies to attack part of the cells of the thyroid gland.

These antibodies linked to Graves’ disease, called anti-thyrotropin receptor antibodies, act as a regulatory hormone in the pituitary gland. As a result, this antibody overrides the normal regulation of thyroid function, causing overproduction of thyroid hormones or hyperthyroidism.

Risk factors

Although it is not known exactly what triggers Graves’ disease, there are a number of risk factors associated with its occurrence. Risk factors for Graves disease include:

  • Family history with cases of Graves’ disease
  • Gender: Women have a higher incidence of this condition
  • Age: the probability of developing this disease increases from the age of 40.
  • Experimentation with emotional or physical stress
  • pregnancy
  • smoking

Is there a treatment?

The main goal of treatment for Graves’ disease is to inhibit the production of thyroid hormones and block their effects on the body. To do this, the patient can undergo the following treatments for Graves’ disease.

1. Radioactive iodine therapy

By giving radioactive iodine by mouth, there is a decrease in size or narrowing of the thyroid gland, so that the symptoms gradually decrease over several weeks or months.

2. Antithyroid drug therapy

Antithyroid drugs, such as propylthiouracil and methimazole, interfere with the functioning of the thyroid glands to decrease hormone production.

3. Beta-blocker drugs

Unlike antithyroid drugs, beta blockers do not inhibit the production of thyroid hormones, but rather block their effect on the body. These drugs include:

  • Propranolol
  • Atenolol
  • Metoprolol
  • Nadolol

4. Surgery

Thyroidectomy or subtotal thyroidectomy is the partial or complete removal of the thyroid. After surgery, it is very possible that the person will need supplements to provide the body with the normal amounts of thyroid hormones needed.

5. Treatment of Graves’ ophthalmopathy

While people with mild eye problems may resort to the use of eye drops, artificial tears, or lubricating eye gels, the following procedures or treatments are recommended for more severe cases of Graves’ ophthalmopathy:

  • corticosteroids
  • Glasses with prisms to eliminate double vision
  • Orbital decompression surgery
  • Orbital radiotherapy

Bibliographical references:

  • Menconi, F., Marcocci, C. and Marinò, M. (2014). Diagnosis and classification of Graves disease. Autoimmunity Reviews, 13 (4-5): 398-402.
  • Brent, Georgia (2008). Clinical practice. Graves disease. The New England Journal of Medicine, 358 (24): 2594-2605.

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