Healthy Living: Graves’ disease
Have you suddenly lost a bit of weight? Dry, brittle nails? You may have a problem with your thyroid. Marcie Fraser has a closer look at Graves’ disease in today’s Healthy Living.
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If you suddenly lost a little bit of weight, most of us wouldn't complain, but it could be a sign of a thyroid problem.
"It just comes on, there aren't any real risk factors we can identify."
Endocrinologist Dr. James DeSimone is talking about Graves’ disease. It affects more women than men, and it's caused by an over production of the thyroid gland.
"In Graves’ disease, it's a type of auto-immune disease and you make antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to pick up more iodine and make more thyroid hormones and speed you up," said Dr. DeSimone.
Thyroid hormone affects every part of the body. Too much speeds up the metabolic system; weight loss and rapid heartbeats are common symptoms. Other symptoms include:
"It changes the way your hair follicles make hair. It might make bad hair so your hair will fall out. It will change the way your finger nails grow because depends on metabolic rate also. It can make your skin dry, or soft or moist," said Dr. DeSimone. "If left untreated it can be fatal. It's like a car engine idling at high speed. If left untreated there are problems with heart irregular heartbeats, stroke and heart attacks."
Treatment can include medications and surgery to remove the thyroid gland as well as melting it away.
"You can take high dose of radioactive iodine which is concentrated at the thyroid gland and it melts the thyroid away over the period of four to six months. It's a very common way to treat it."
There is good news: Graves’ disease is curable. The caveat is you have to be on medication your entire life.
"The nice thing about thyroid medication is that it is not really a medication, it's actually the true thyroid hormone that the thyroid gland would make and the only difference is, instead of it getting secreted from the gland itself, you get it orally."