Each year, only two percent of the female population begins to suffer from a condition known as Graves’ disease, a disorder of the thyroid gland. For many, this autoimmune disease is under or misdiagnosed leading to significant health complications. As women, understanding this rare, but significant, health condition may work to ensure early intervention and treatment.
As a hormonal imbalance attributed to an over active thyroid, Graves’ disease can result in significant life altering health complications. Because the thyroid is crucial to a woman’s energy and metabolism levels, initially, women suffering from Grave’s disease may enjoy the weight loss associated with the condition. However, because this autoimmune condition involves an impairment of the hormonal system, leading to heart palpitations, the over active thyroid should not be ignored.
For women suffering from Graves’ disease, complications present as rapid heart beat, anxiety, nervousness and weight loss. As an autoimmune disease, the condition will attribute to a slow deterioration in vital organ function leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, fatigue with insomnia, irregular menstrual cycles and even tremors and a significant change in facial appearance resulting in bulging of the eyes.
Once diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a woman will require aggressive treatment with use of medications to control the regulation of the thyroid gland. In most cases, medication will be required for the duration of life. Unfortunately, with the use of thyroid medications, women who are of child bearing years will find it difficult to become pregnant, or may choose to avoid pregnancy, as the thyroid medications, used in treating Graves’ disease, can lead to birth defects.
In addition to medication usage, in the treatment of Graves’ disease, some women will require surgical intervention including radioactive iodine application which destroys cells of the thyroid gland rendering it unable to function at the same high capacity. For more complicated cases of Graves’ disease, surgery to remove the thyroid gland will be required.
While Graves’ disease is more common in women, it can affect men. In men, Graves’ disease will require the same types of treatment and may include counseling to address family planning should the male sufferer consider fathering children at a point during his life.
As with any autoimmune disease, especially those resulting in weight loss or cardiovascular complications, early diagnosis and treatment will provide for the most optimal of outcomes. When suffering from symptoms which appear to be attributed to a thyroid disorder, consult an endocrinologist regarding simple blood work to diagnose, and begin treatment, in an autoimmune disorder such as Grave’s disease.