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What is Graves’ disease? High Levels of Thyroid Hormones

Graves' Disease:  Another Name for Hyperthyroidism

Graves' Disease is a type of autoimmune disease that causes over-activity of the thyroid gland, causing hyperthyroidism.  This over-activity is also sometimes called "toxic diffuse goiter."

The thyroid gland helps set the rate of metabolism, which is the rate at which the body uses energy. When the thyroid is too active, it makes more thyroid hormones than the body needs.  High levels of thyroid hormones can cause side effects such as weight loss, rapid heart rate and nervousness.

This is an uncommon disease that affects 2 percent of all women at some time in their lives. Graves’ Disease also tends to affect women between the ages of 20 and 40, although it occurs in infants, children, and the elderly.

Hyperthyroidism is a Thyroid Disease

Hyperthyroidism is a condition caused by the effects of too much thyroid hormone on tissues of the body.

Although there are several different causes of hyperthyroidism, most of the symptoms that patients experience are the same regardless of the cause (see the list of symptoms below). High levels of thyroid hormones can cause side effects such as weight loss, rapid heart rate and nervousness. Because the body's metabolism is increased, patients often feel hotter than those around them and can slowly lose weight even though they may be eating more. The weight issue is confusing sometimes since some patients actually gain weight because of an increase in their appetite.

Patients with hyperthyroidism usually experience fatigue at the end of the day, but have trouble sleeping. Trembling of the hands and a hard or irregular heartbeat (called palpitations) may develop. These individuals may become irritable and easily upset.

When hyperthyroidism is severe, patients can suffer shortness of breath, chest pain, and muscle weakness. Usually the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are so gradual in their onset that patients don't realize the symptoms until they become more severe. This means the symptoms may continue for weeks or months before patients fully realize that they are sick.

In older people, some or all of the typical symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be absent, and the patient may just lose weight or become depressed.

Thyroid Disease: Common Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

  • Palpitations
  • Heat intolerance
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Breathlessness
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Light or absent menstrual periods
  • Fatigue
  • Fast heart rate
  • Trembling hands
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Warm moist skin
  • Hair loss
  • Staring gaze

 

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The Canary Club is an educational advisory group with a team of medical advisors headed by Richard Shames, M.D.