The main characteristics of Graves’ disease are goiter, hyperthyroidism, and the protrusion of the eyeball from the socket.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland starts producing more thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) than are necessary for normal functioning of the body organs. Protrusion of eyeballs can get aggravated to such an extent that it can cause difficulty in closing eyelids while sleeping. Either or all the characteristics may be present to indicate Graves’ disease.
The two major features of the Graves’ disease that are not seen in other hyperthyroid conditions are edema and goiter.
High levels of thyroid hormones, protein-bound iodine, and low levels of TSH in the blood indicate the presence of Graves’ disease. This condition can be confirmed if thyroid-stimulating antibodies are detected through serological tests. A biopsy, the examination of a tissue sample under a microscope, provides definite confirmation on the presence of the Graves’ disease.
Medical treatment of Graves’ disease includes thyroid medications, anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine (RAI) and thyroidectomy (surgical removal of the thyroid). RAI therapy is effective, less expensive, and obviates the risk of surgery. Anti-thyroid drugs need to be administered for at least six months before they can show signs of effectiveness.
Earlier thyroid treatment of Graves’ disease involved a large dependence upon surgical thyroidectomy. With the discovery of radioactive iodine (I-131) in the early 1940’s many physicians are choosing to this method of treatment.
In cases where medical therapy or surgery has failed, patients are usually advised to undergo radioactive iodine treatment. RAI is not advised for pregnant women or those with thyroid eye-disease, but is preferred for older patients.
Radioactive iodine treatment is beset with serious side effects. The fear of overexposure to radioactivity is a significant deterrent towards the therapy, and many people look for alternative thyroid treatments.
Any carelessness in dose administration can result in turning the hyperactive thyroid into an under active one. This causes a condition known as hypothyroidism.
Natural thyroid medication is another option that patients have when evaluating the form of treatment that they would like to adopt for themselves. Produced totally from natural products, these natural formulations are practically risk-free and have shown great promise in treating thyroid disorders.
Homoeopathic remedies too fall under this category and are highly recommended by physicians who take a moderate view.