What Exactly is Graves Eye Disease and What Can Be Done About It?
Graves eye disease is a condition that is common to hyperthyroidism, which all stems from the function of the thyroid gland. An important part of your endocrine system, the thyroid gland is counted on to produce certain hormones that control metabolism.
This is critical for the proper balance of moods and energy, and the maintenance of weight and a sharp mind. When the thyroid produces too much hormone, Graves eye disease and in turn Hyperthyroidism can occur and this is when serious side effects might be experienced. The disease, also known as Graves Ophthalmopathy, is common in women, although it can be found in both men and women of all ages.
Signs and Symptoms of Graves Eye Disease
Thank you to the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center for allowing us to use this photo which is an example of Graves Ophthalmopathy.
Graves eye disease has a number of signs and symptoms associated with it, although many of these can also be attributed to another issue that you might have. It’s important to make sure you confirm your diagnosis with a medical professional.
Some of the most common symptoms of this type of Hyperthyroidism are anxiety, double vision, high blood pressure, fatigue, weight loss, and muscle weakness. In some cases tremors are also experienced. Restless sleep is something many people also have trouble with, along with changes in hair.
Other common signs to look for include:
Diagnosing Graves Ophthalmopathy Symptoms
Heart rate tests are usually given to those suspected of having Graves Disease. An elevated heart rate can indicate some relation. Doctors will usually check to see if the thyroid gland itself is enlarged and if so, by how much. Blood tests can be done to measure your thyroid hormone levels in order to determine if they are being overproduced. In some cases even a radio iodine uptake is performed. This is a test that measures how much radioactive iodine the thyroid gland uptakes in a given period of time. Ultrasound tests to measure the size of your thyroid gland can be done as well.
The use of beta blockers is commonly used in the treatment of Graves eye disease. The most used types of beta blockers on the market include:
You doctor would be the one to determine which beta blocker might be the best option for you. These drugs don’t do anything to fix the actual thyroid problem but they do help to fight off the effects of high doses of hormones produced by the thyroid. In other words beta blockers don’t fix the problem they simply help eliminate or lessen the symptoms.
There are currently three other types of treatment options available to those who suffer from Graves eye disease, as this form of thyroid problem tends to last for many years, if not a lifetime. The options are surgery, anti-thyroid drugs, and radioactive iodine.
The truth is that most patients can successfully be treated for this disease without surgery thanks to the use of medications and radio iodine treatments. However some people such as pregnant women and those with too large goiters (which in turn effect swallowing and breathing) can benefit from such a drastic kind of treatment.
Certain drugs such as Tapazole work to decrease the amount of hormone produced by the thyroid. These medications tend to begin bringing the hormone levels down within the first couple weeks of use, and most people see their hormone levels return to normal after six to eight weeks of therapy. Some patients are also prescribed beta blockers during the initial phases of treatment to help create a balance quicker. Most of the time treatment of about 18 months can be expected with regular testing to make sure the thyroid is correcting itself.
A common treatment in the United States for Graves eye disease is called radioiodine. This type of treatment has been used to successfully treat the disease for more than 50 years. The treatment is simple enough in that radioactive iodine is simply consumed in the form of a pill. There are no known side effects to worry about, with no increased risk of cancer or problems with pregnancies in the future. Most patients see results from the treatment within three months.
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