Living With Graves Disease

Graves Disease is an autoimmune disorder that effects the thyroid gland and is most commonly found in women around the age of 30, but can affect both men and children. The immune system attacks the thyroid, resulting in hyperthyroidism or an overproduction of thyroid hormone known as thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can result in a series of symptoms, most commonly: rapid heartbeat, weight loss, bulging of the eyes, insomnia, anxiety and an enlarged thyroid. If left untreated it can lead to serious medical conditions such as birth defects, stroke, blindness and even death. 

Luckily, with adequate treatment Graves Disease is quite manageable. It can be diagnosed through a simple physical exam and blood test of the the T3, T4 and TSH levels. After diagnosis the two most common and effective treatments are Surgery and Radioiodine.

Surgery:  
A thyroidectomy is commonly used on patients who are pregnant, or very young. It gives an immediate cure and removes possible cancer cells as well. A disadvantage to surgery however, is a thin scar that will be apparent at the base of the neck (it fades in time and will appear to be a crease in the neck). With the remove of one's thyroid, they will have to be on a treatment of  thyroid hormone for the rest of their life. This treatment as simple as taking the sufficient dose of Synthroid, a thyroid replacement pill, once a day.

Radioiodine:
Administered through either a capsule or a tasteless liquid solution, radioiodine uses the thyroid's natural need for iodine to render it inactive, or slow down the production of thyroxine. This method of treatment is acceptable for all patients except those who are or may be pregnant as the radioactive iodine can cause birth defects. There are no immediate side effects from radioiodine, but hypothyroidism is a common occurrence. Like when treated by surgery, patients who receive radioioidine treatment will be placed on a dose of Synthroid (or generic copy), to give the body the needed amount of thyroid hormone. The hypothyroidism that can result from radioiodine is monitored through regular blood tests and is regulated by the dose of the thyroid hormone pill and an annual check up with an endocrinologist.

After being treated for Graves Disease a few things can be done to ensure good health. Taking the prescribed amount of replacement thyroid hormone every day, preferably at the same time, will help eliminate symptoms of hypothyroidism. In order to make sure one is on the right dose of Synthroid or equivalent medication, routine blood tests of the TSH level and an annual appointment with an endocrinologist is essential.  

Aside from medical means a healthy diet geared towards those with thyroid problems can aid in the quality of one's health. It is suggested that certain foods be avoided while taking a thyroid supplement as their ingestion can interact with the effectiveness of the medication. Things to avoid are soy, antacids with aluminum or magnesium, iron and calcium supplements and dietary fiber. While it is not necessary to avoid these indefinitely, it is suggested that they be ingested sparingly or several hours before or after taking one thyroid medication.

Graves Disease is a manageable condition that, when diagnosed and treated properly, will cause no serious health risks and will eliminate the symptoms so that those who suffer from it to have little to no interference caused by Graves' in their daily life.

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