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What Is Graves’ Disease? What Women Need To Know


Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that affects women 10 times more than it affects men. With this disease the thyroid produces more hormones than the body needs. This leads to a host of symptoms.

Symptoms of Graves’ Disease

One of the more noticeable signs of this disease is a goiter. This is an enlargement of the thyroid. The thyroid gland is in the front of the neck. The disease also affects the eyes by causing swelling. This can result in the eyes bulging out. Other symptoms are sensitivity to heat, trembling hands, rapid heartbeat, muscle weakness, fewer periods, and brittle hair.

For most people, the symptoms begin in the 20s or 30s, but some people with Graves’ disease don’t have any symptoms. Symptoms often start very slowly, or come on suddenly.

The Causes of Graves’ Disease

Many factors contribute to a person getting the disease. Heredity is one important component. If other family members have thyroid problems, this increases your likelihood of getting the disease. An infection can also play a role in who gets Graves’ disease. Stress and emotional trauma also contributing factors, as are female hormones. Pregnancy is a major cause. Thirty percent of women who get Graves’ disease were pregnant in the 12 months prior to being diagnosed.

How to Treat Graves’ Disease

There are two anti-thyroid drugs that are used in the United States. These drugs prevent the thyroid from producing too much of the hormones. These drugs can only be used for one to two years. Another treatment is radioactive iodine (RAI). The tiny iodine pill damages the thyroid gland so it can’t produce an excess amount of the hormones. The final treatment option is surgery in which part of the thyroid or the entire gland is removed.

What Is Graves’ Disease?

Graves’ disease is a serious condition, especially for women. If left untreated, it can cause heart problems or even death. However, the disease affects everyone differently and some people only have mild forms of the disease.

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