Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What are the symptoms of Grave's Disease?"
My husband has a rash, so he is self diagnosing as having Grave's Disease. He's certainly prone to flights of hypochondria where his health is concerned, so reassure me: what kind of symptoms would a person actually have if they were suffering from Grave's disease? How serious would it be?
Graves disease is an autoimmune condition caused by auto-antibodies acting primarily at the thyroid gland, but also in the orbits of the eye as well as the dermis and soft tissue under the skin. The result is a clinical triad consisting of hyperthyroidism, orbitopathy (bulging eyeballs due to deposition of connective tissue in the soft tissue behind the eyeballs) and pretibial myxedema (woody, non-pitting thickening of the skin over the shin). The common symptoms of the hyperthyroidism associated with Graves disease include: weight loss despite increased hunger, heat intolerance, heart palpitations, increased anxiety, increased frequency of bladder and bowel movements and shortness of breath with exertion. Additionally, on physical exam, a large, swollen thyroid goiter is commonly found. The thyroid gland itself sits on top of the trachea (windpipe) and therefore increased size of the thyroid itself (i.e. goiter) can cause difficulty swallowing. the treatment of Graves disease consists of controlling the aforementioned symptoms (specifically the myriad symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism) and eventually medically or surgically ablating the thyroid gland in order to prevent recurrence of symptoms. Initially, symptoms can be controlled with medications called beta-blockers while the underlying condition with ultimately need to be addressed with radioiodine ablation (essentially destroying the thyroid tissue with localized 'radiation therapy') vs a surgical removal of the gland. while these approaches are the definitive solution to treating the hyperthyroidism associated with Graves disease, additional therapy is often needed to treat the eye and skin manifestations. hope this helps!