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Graves' Disease Diagnosis

Graves' Disease Diagnosis
Causes and Risk Factors

You're likely to start diagnosing Graves’ disease or any thyroid disorder by first seeing a family doctor or a general practitioner. Sometimes, you may be referred immediately to an endocrinologist. It's a good idea to be prepared for the doctor’s appointment. Here's some information that can help you get ready for your appointment, so that you know what to expect from the doctor.

Medical history
Doctors begin to diagnose thyroid function abnormalities first using medical history and a physical examination. Generally, your doctor will ask you to describe symptoms as well as outline your personal and family medical histories. Specifically, your doctor will examine the neck and ask you to lift up the chin to exposure the thyroid gland. You may also be asked to swallow several times during the examination, which helps doctors feel the thyroid and any possible mass that may be present. In addition to the questions that you've prepared for the appointment, feel free to ask questions at any time that you don't understand something. Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them so that you can spend time during your appointment on other issues. Your doctor may ask:

  • Have your symptoms been continuous, or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Is there a family history of thyroid problems
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?

Medical exams
To diagnose Graves’ disease, doctors typically use the following diagnostic procedures:

Anti-TSH receptor antibody

Blood sample - Your doctor will likely order blood tests to determine levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine in the body. TSH, is produced by the pituitary gland and during a case of Graves’ disease, an abnormal antibody called TRAb mimics TSH. This abnormal stimulation causes elevated thyroxine levels while TSH levels remain low. People with low levels of TSH and high levels of thyroxine may be diagnosed with Graves’ disease.

Physical exam During a physical for Graves’ disease, the doctor will examine the eyes to identify signs of irritation or protrusion and look for an enlarged thyroid gland and signs of tremor. Because Graves’ disease increases metabolism, the doctor will check the pulse, blood pressure. Your doctor may also check the visual perimeter, the angles at which you spot a moving object from all directions: up/down, left/right.

Radioactive iodine uptake - Your body needs iodine to make thyroxine. Doctors administer a small amount of radioactive iodine and later measure the amount of it in the thyroid gland, to determine the rate at which the thyroid takes up iodine. A high uptake of radioactive iodine indicates too much thyroxine, as is the case in Graves’ disease. Low uptake of radioactive iodine occurs during some other causes of hyperthyroidism.

Orbit CT scan or ultrasound

Thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) - This test confirms or excludes the presence of an autoantibody in the blood that acts like TSH at its receptor on the thyroid gland, stimulating the thyroid to produce increased amounts of hormone. Another test doctors can use to detect thyroid stimulating antibodies is called the Thyroid stimulating hormone receptor antibody (TRAb) test, although it is not as specific as the TSI test.

Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibody - This autoantibody is found in most people with Graves’ disease, as well as in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and is used as a diagnostic marker for Graves’.

Without thyroid hormone replacement, hypothyroidism can lead to depression, mental and physical sluggishness, and/or weight gain. Thankfully, Graves’ disease often responds well to treatment. Once doctors diagnose Graves’ disease, treatment focuses on controlling the activity of the thyroid gland. To learn about the most common forms of Graves’ disease treatment, including diet for Graves' disease, read on.

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Tags: enlarged thyroid gland, thyroid disorder, thyroid problems, hyperthyroidism, thyroid hormone, hypothyroidism, ask questions, thyroid gland, autoantibody, thyroiditis, blood tests, metabolism, administer, Depression, ultrasound, treatment, addition, symptoms, amounts, thyroid
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