Chemistry of Graves’ Disease – What Should Be Tretment


Graves’ disease can generally be described as a disorder of the immune system which results in excess production of hyperthyroidism, thyroid hormones. Even though there are other disorders that cause hyperthyroidism, research indicates that Graves’ disease is the most common (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Based on the fact that thyroid hormones affect several body systems, the disease may be manifested through varied signs and symptoms resulting in adverse alteration of normal body functioning. Like most diseases, Graves’ disease can affect anybody regardless of age and gender. However, Mayo Clinic Staff notes that women below the age of forty are more vulnerable to the disease as compared to any other group of people. Treatment of the disease usually focuses on controlling thyroid hormones production and lowering the sensitivity of manifested symptoms. According to the America Thyroid Association, the disease is named after an Irish physician, Robert Graves who described the disease more than a hundred years ago (American Thyroid Association, 2005).


The symptoms of Graves’ disease are similar to those caused by other forms of hyperthyroidism. According to Mayo Clinic Staff, these symptoms include but are not limited to anxiety, fatigue, sensitivity to heat, irritability, irregular heartbeat, high perspiration, goiter, alteration of the menstrual cycle in women, and sleeping difficulties (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Importantly, this disease is the only type of hyperthyroidism that has been found to affect the eyes by causing inflammation, swelling of eye tissues, and general bulging of the eyes, a condition referred to as Graves’ ophthalmopathy (American Thyroid Association, 2005). The cause of this condition is unknown with less than one percent of patients developing serious complications which later result in permanent eye problems. Moreover, cigarette smoking has been found to be a major predisposing factor for eye complications among Graves’ disease patients. Pretibial myxedema is a rare case and does not simultaneously begin with the onset of hyperthyroidism (American Thyroid Association, 2005).


Graves’ disease is caused by dysfunctional processes of the immune system leading to the overproduction of thyroid hormones. By use of antibodies, the immune system fights body invaders and ensures that the body stays free from infections and pathogens (Lab Tests Online, 2011). These antibodies are produced by lymphocytes in the blood. Nevertheless, it is possible for a person to inherit a risky immune that produces antibodies that destroy body tissues that are useful to the body. In the case of Grave’s disease, antibodies usually attach to the surface of thyroid cells, triggering cells to produce thyroid hormones in excess amounts. This causes over-reactivity of the thyroid as it becomes unable to cope which high levels of hormones. It has arguably been mentioned by some physicians that acute stress that may result from the loss of a loved one or other related cases may contribute to the onset of the disease (American Thyroid Association, 2005). It is recorded that Dr. Graves discovered stressful moments among his patients prior to the manifestation of the disease. However, most patients who suffer from the disease usually demonstrate low levels of stress.


Diagnosis of this disease is based on the findings of the doctor through interrogation and physical examination. Additionally, doctors may opt for laboratory tests in cases where the physical examination does not reveal clear information. Through physical examination, the doctor is able to notice bulging or irritating eyes and the possibility of having enlarged thyroid glands. In addition, doctors establish the blood pressure and pulse since the disease increases metabolic rate. Besides this, doctors take blood samples to determine the level of other hormones like ta hyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Higher thyroid levels are common among people with this disease together with low TSH (Lab Tests Online, 2011). Some cases further involve the determination of antibodies which are known to cause the disease. However, negative results could indicate the likelihood of having a different cause of the disease. Similarly, a radioactive iodine uptake test allows the doctor to determine the iodine intake rate by thyroid glands with a high intake indicating overproduction of hormones. In cases where these tests fail, imaging tests like computerized tomography, X-rays, and MRI are always applied (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011).


Treatment procedures for Graves’ disease concentrate on lowering the production of thyroid hormones and ensuring that body hormones do not interfere with normal body functioning. Radioactive iodine therapy is a common procedure that involves patients orally taking radioiodine or radioactive iodine as prescribed by the doctor (American Thyroid Association, 2005). This is taken up by the thyroid which is usually in need of iodine. As a result, thyroid cells that are overactive are destroyed by the radioactive iodine. Notably, the therapy may worsen Graves’ disease symptoms and is not recommended for patients who may have already developed acute eye problems (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011). Other side effects may include an increase in thyroid hormones, tenderness of the neck, and low testosterone in men. It is not medically advisable for pregnant and nursing women. Anti-thyroid medications mostly affect the thyroid’s ability to use iodine in the production of hormones. Commonly used drugs are propylthiouracil and methimazole with research showing that the use of the two drugs alone causes a relapse of the disease in the future (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2011).


American Thyroid Association. (2005). Graves’ Disease. American Thyroid Association. Web.

Lab Tests Online. (2011). Graves Disease. Lab Tests Online. Web.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011). Graves’ disease. Mayo Clinic Staff. Web.

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