Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder where the thyroid gland produces an excess of specific hormones. The patient often experiences complications with their eyesight once this disease develops.
This autoimmune disorder is where the immune system attacks its own host — you. Read on to learn more about Graves’ disease, its symptoms, causes, and how to beat it for proper thyroid function.
In this article:
- What Is Graves’ Disease?
- Thyroid Acropachy
- Graves’ Disease Symptoms
- Graves’ Disease Causes
- Risk Factors of Graves’ Disease
- Complications of Graves’ Disease
- The Treatment
- Nutrients You Need to Help Ease Symptoms of Graves’ Disease
- Foods That Boost the Immune System
What You Should Know About Graves’ Disease
What Is Graves’ Disease?
Graves’ disease occurs when the immune system produces an excess of antibodies, specifically the thyrotropin receptor antibody (TRAb). The TRAb is similar to the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor (TSH receptor) that helps in regulating the amount of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
An increase in the TRAb results means an increased demand for both T3 and T4. As a result, the thyroid produces too much of the T3 and T4 hormones and eventually overworks and stresses itself.
An overabundance of these hormones causes the immune system to burn nutrients at a faster rate. As such, this leaves the body with lesser nutrients to absorb.
Overall, these conditions combined will ultimately lead to the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
One of the most harmful effects of Graves’ disease lies in ophthalmopathy, wherein the patient faces multiple eye symptoms and complications. Victims of this disease may experience swelling, inflammation, and even scarring in and around the eye socket.
Additionally, these symptoms could restrict the patient from being able to close their eyes. As such, this leaves the cornea unprotected and will eventually cause it to dry up.
There were several severe cases where the damages of ophthalmopathy are permanent.
Most mild disorders of Graves’ ophthalmopathy disappear on their own after 1-4 months. Graves’ ophthalmopathy may also be treated with anti-thyroid medicine like methimazole and propylthiouracil, but it can get worse if the thyroid hormone levels are out of balance.
Patients’ may require immunosuppressants, corticosteroid medicines, or radioactive iodine therapy if they’re suffering from severe inflammation of the tissues and muscles around the eyes. Clients can also opt for surgery if they have optic nerve damage or serious thyroid eye disease (TED).
Thyroid acropachy is a severe indication of autoimmune thyroid disease and is almost always associated with Graves’ disease and thyroid dermopathy. It’s usually seen only in patients with moderate-to-severe TED.
Most patients don’t recognize symptoms of thyroid acropachy, which include clubbing, joint pain (especially small joints), swelling of the fingers and toes, and high thyroid-stimulating antibody hormone. During clinical examinations, experts duly noted these symptoms.
Treatment for thyroid acropachy includes intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, intralesional injections of corticosteroids, local corticosteroid therapy, and surgical excision.
Graves’ Disease Symptoms
Graves’ disease comes with multiple symptoms, but its most common symptom feature is intense swelling and bulging of the eyes. This is caused by increased pressure and swelling due to inflammation within the eye socket.
Additionally, this disease restricts the function of our body’s antibodies. As such, other symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness and pain
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Heat intolerance
- Diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
- Change in the menstrual periods
- Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido
In cases where Graves’ disease is left untreated, physical symptoms and signs may occur. The known physical symptoms and signs of Graves’ disease are the exophthalmic goiter, eye disease (ophthalmopathy), and skin thickening.
Graves’ Disease Causes
Graves’ disease often develops in patients who have ignored proper treatment even after experiencing some of these symptoms. This autoimmune disease is one of the most difficult disorders to diagnose because it often hides behind symptoms.
Other causes of Graves’ disease include toxic multinodular goiter and inflammatory disorders of the thyroid called thyroiditis. Taking excessive quantities of thyroid hormone preparations can also cause Graves.
We highly suggest consulting your local physician if you begin to experience some of these issues. Furthermore, it is always best to research various thyroid disorders and issues.
We can overcome this disorder by removing the veil of ignorance surrounding Graves’ disease.
Risk Factors of Graves’ Disease
This condition may occur to anyone, but several factors increase the risk of developing this disease:
- Smoking – A study revealed that women who smoke are likely to have Graves’ disease than female non-smokers. Smokers who already have the condition also have a high risk of developing ophthalmopathy.
- Pregnancy – Thyroid hormones tend to overproduce during pregnancy.
- Other autoimmune disorders – Autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes can increase your risk.
- Age – This condition usually occurs in people not more than 40 years old.
- Gender – Women have a higher risk than men primarily because they undergo pregnancy, which is a stage where hormones become unstable.
- Family history – A family history of Graves’ disease can also increase your risk.
Complications of Graves’ Disease
There are several cases, especially when left untreated:
- Brittle bones – Too many thyroid hormones can disrupt your body’s process to include calcium into your bones, and this can result in the deficiency of the mineral in the bones.
- Thyroid storm – It’s a life-threatening hyperthyroidism condition that causes severe weakness, diarrhea, very low blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat.
- Heart disease – When left untreated, the condition can cause alterations in the function and structure of heart muscles and heart rhythm disorders.
- Pregnancy issues – Pregnant women with Graves’ disease may experience miscarriage and maternal heart failure. Poor fetal growth may also be a consequence.
Early detection and medication of Graves’ disease are vital, as it can have harmful effects on the bone structure, eyes, and heart function. TED is a disorder associated with Graves’ disease, and every patient must know and understand it.
Dysthyroid optic neuropathy is rare but is the most feared complication of TED.
Despite the severity of Graves’ disease, this disorder can be remedied even after complications have developed. Listed below are some methods you should consider if you are trying to overcome Graves’ disease.
- Radioiodine therapy — This treatment slowly and accurately eliminates thyroid cells to reduce the production of thyroid hormones. This is one of the most favored and popular treatments among multiple methods. Physicians have been clinically using radioiodine therapy for more than five decades.
- Partial thyroidectomy — This procedure involves removing a portion of the thyroid gland to regain hormonal balance. As such, this restricts the gland’s ability to produce hormones. This thyroid surgery is limited to pregnant women or people who cannot undergo radioiodine therapy.
- Supplements — The patient may opt to take supplements and anti-thyroid medications if they simply want to help speed up the recovery process. Supplements such as selenium help eliminate antibodies and reduce swelling or inflammation. Additionally, L-carnitine and Vitamin D can be beneficial for recovering patients. Consider taking an all-natural supplement that contains the perfect blend of ingredients that help target each thyroid symptom.
Nutrients You Need to Help Ease Symptoms of Graves’ Disease
Your diet also plays a crucial role in managing the signs and symptoms of the condition. The following are nutrients you need to help with the disease:
Selenium deficiency is linked to TED in those with Graves’ disease. It functions as an antioxidant that can help protect your thyroid cells.
You can get selenium from these foods:
- Sunflower seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Brown rice
When there are too many thyroid hormones, it’s difficult for you to absorb calcium, and this can lead to brittle bones. Calcium is rich in dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk, but if you have issues with these foods, you can opt for non-dairy ones like:
The body needs magnesium to absorb calcium. A deficiency of this nutrient may worsen the symptoms of Graves’ disease.
Foods rich in magnesium you can add to your Graves’ disease diet are as follows:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Dark chocolate
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from your diet. The best source of the vitamin is the sun, but you can also get it from these foods:
- Cod liver oil
Foods That Boost the Immune System
Doctors may not know the exact reason why the immune system attacks the body, and because Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, it’s still best to include foods that help strengthen your immune system.
There are certain types of shellfish that are beneficial for the immune system, such as:
These types contain zinc, which aids in activating T lymphocytes (T cells). These attack cancerous and infected cells and regulate immune responses.
2. Sunflower Seeds
These are rich in:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E, in particular, is essential in maintaining and regulating the function of the immune system. It is also an antioxidant that protects the cells from free radical damage.
The immune system relies on proper cell-to-cell communication for great function. This means that when cells have strong protection from toxins, the immune system can also function properly.
Poultry, like turkey and chicken, is high in vitamin B6, which plays an important role in many biochemical reactions in the immune system. A 3-ounce chicken or turkey already contains 40-50% of the daily recommended vitamin B6.
This fruit is rich in essential nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin K, and folate. Vitamin C, particularly, strengthens white blood cells that help fight infection in the body.
It’s also an antioxidant that can help shield the immune system.
5. Green Tea
Green tea is rich in flavonoids and other types of antioxidants that can help enhance immunity. It’s also rich in L-theanine, an amino acid, which helps in the production of T lymphocytes.
Despite its benefits to the immune system, it’s important to note that green tea has caffeine. If you’re drinking more than a cup a day, it’s best to drink it separately during the day and not later in the evening as it can affect your sleep.
Yogurt has live microorganisms that stimulate your immune system to fight bacteria-causing illnesses. It’s also a great source of vitamin D, which naturally helps in boosting the body’s natural defenses by modulating adaptive immune responses.
You can opt for plain yogurt as flavored ones are high in added sugar. Sweeten it with fresh fruits or raw honey.
This veggie has vitamin C, beta carotene, and antioxidants—all play a crucial role in enhancing your immune system’s ability to fight off infection. It’s best to cook it as little as possible to retain its nutrients.
Beta Carotene Definition: An antioxidant responsible for converting vitamin A in the body and for the orange, yellow, and red colors of certain fruits and vegetables
One great way to consume it without cooking is to add this to your green smoothie.
To conclude, Graves’ disease is one of the early stages of hyperthyroidism and can lead to even more complications later if left untreated. Consult a professional if any of the symptoms occur and start eating foods that boost your immune system and help manage the condition.
Let’s overcome Graves’ disease and other autoimmune thyroid diseases together!
Have you ever had Graves’ disease or any thyroid complications? What were the signs and symptoms you experienced? Feel free to share your own experience with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 23, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.