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A Graves Matter

Jan 28, 2013 06:14PM ● By Anonymous


This prompted a visit to Mark’s pediatrician who thought it may be some sort of heart condition, so off to the cardiologist he went. However, even after several tests and EKGs, the doctor couldn’t make a final diagnosis. Mark’s parents weren’t satisfied. After doing some research, and talking to family members in the medical fi eld, it was suggested that Mark may have a thyroid disease.

So Mark saw an endocrinologist, and sure enough, after a blood test, he was diagnosed with Graves’ disease.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, which leads to over activity of the thyroid glands. (In fact, it is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the U.S.) Mark was experiencing many of the symptoms associated with Graves’ disease; named for Robert Graves, an Irish doctor, who described this type of hyperthyroidism about 150 years ago, according to the American Thyroid Association.

The thyroid produces hormones that affect metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight, cholesterol levels, and emotional and cognitive functions. In those with Graves’, the immune system sends false signals to the thyroid, which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce an overabundance of these hormones. As a result, sufferers may experience a pounding heart, sweating, trembling, and weight loss, among other symptoms.

Although not very common, eye trouble can also be a distinguishing characteristic of Graves’. Those experiencing this symptom will usually have inflamed or swollen eye muscles and tissues behind the eye socket that cause the eyeballs to bulge. According to the Graves’ Disease & Thyroid Foundation, patients may also experience dry eyes, redness, eyelid retraction, a “gritty” sensation, double vision or compression of the optic nerve.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists says Graves’ disease usually occurs in people younger than 40 and is much more common in women than men. Also, people with other autoimmune disorders are more susceptible to developing the disease. The disease affects about two to three percent of the U.S. population, or 10 million people. As long as the patient receives prompt and proper medical care, Graves’ generally has no long-term health consequences and is not life-threatening. In fact, with the right treatment, usually prescribed medication, the disease may go into remission or disappear completely.

Now four years later, Mark is doing well. He has had a few relapses and needed to change his medication numerous times. He also continues to visit his endocrinologist, as well as take blood tests regularly to monitor his condition. But, overall Mark is a healthy teenager, back to his normal eating habits, and now in his freshman year in college.