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Graves' Disease Symptoms

Graves' Disease Symptoms
Causes and Risk Factors

Symptoms of Graves’ disease
People diagnosed with Graves’ disease often exhibit common symptoms of hyperthyroidism. However, Graves’ disease is the only type of hyperthyroidism associated with swelling of the tissue around the eyes and bulging of the eyes. And in rare cases of this thyroid disorder, patients can develop a lumpy reddish thickening of the skin in front of the shins called pretibial myxedema. The symptoms of Graves’ disease can occur slowly or very suddenly and are sometimes confused with other medical problems. Furthermore, some women can experience Graves’ disease and manifest no visible symptoms at all. Main symptoms for Graves’ disease include:

  • an increase in perspiration
  • anxiety
  • brittle hair
  • change in menstrual cycles
  • difficulty sleeping
  • fatigue
  • fine tremor of the hands or fingers
  • frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
  • goiter (an enlarged thyroid that can cause neck swelling)
  • heat intolerance
  • infection, dryness and erosion of the tissue surrounding the eye
  • irritability
  • muscle weakness
  • nervousness
  • a rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • sensitivity to heat
  • trouble sleeping
  • weight loss, despite normal food intake

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism

  • alterations in appetite
  • changes in vision
  • fatigue and muscle weakness
  • frequent bowel movements
  • heat intolerance, sweating
  • impaired fertility
  • menstrual disturbance
  • mental disturbances
  • sleep disturbances
  • thyroid enlargement
  • tremors
  • weight changes

Symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy 
It's also fairly common that the eyes exhibit mild signs of Graves’ ophthalmopathy during cases of Graves’ disease. During Graves’ ophthalmopathy, the eyeballs bulge past their protective orbit. This occurs as a result of tissue and muscle swelling behind the eyes which causes the eyeballs to move forward. Because the eyes may be pushed forward, the front surface of the eyes can become dry. Graves’ ophthalmopathy occurs more often for smokers, possibly because smoking inhibits the absorption of anti-thyroid medication that is used to treat Graves’ disease. Graves’ ophthalmopathy may cause these mild signs and symptoms:

  • excess tearing in either or both eyes
  • inflamed eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • reddened eyes
  • sensation of grit or sand in either or both eyes
  • welling of the lids and tissues around the eyes
  • widening of the space between the eyelids

Less often, Graves’ ophthalmopathy can produce the following signs and symptoms:

  • blurred or reduced vision
  • double vision
  • limited eye movements
  • ulcers on the cornea

Symptoms of Graves’ dermopathy 
A small number of people diagnosed with Graves’ disease might also experience thicken and red skin on the shins or the top of the feet. Although this is usually a painless and uncommon problem, it is a sign of Graves’ disease, called Graves’ dermopathy.

  • reddening of the skin on the shins or feet
  • thickening of the skin on the shins or feet

Any time the body produces too many thyroid hormones, as the result of Graves’ disease or another cause, it can lead to a number of complications. Possible complications of Graves’ disease include:

Brittle bones - Too much thyroid hormone interferes with the body's ability to incorporate calcium into the bones and can result in Weak, brittle bones, also known as osteoporosis).

Heart problems - Some of the most serious complications of hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease involve the heart. Possible heart problems include a rapid heart rate, atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.

Thyrotoxic crisis - This is a sudden intensification of signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease which can lead to fever, rapid pulse, tremors, heart arrhythmia and even delirium. This complication is rare, but if it occurs, seek immediate medical care. If not treated immediately and properly this condition may be fatal.

When to seek help
Call your doctor anytime you notice symptoms of Graves’ disease. Also make an appointment to see your doctor if eye problems or general symptoms get worse (or do not improve) with treatment See your doctor if you have signs and symptoms suggesting Graves’ disease, particularly:

  • an enlarged thyroid
  • anxiety
  • intolerance to heat
  • protruding eyes
  • tremor
  • weight loss

Furthermore, go to the emergency room or call 911 if you are experiencing heart-related signs and symptoms, such as a rapid or irregular heartbeat or manifest symptoms of hyperthyroidism in combination with:

  • fever
  • loss of consciousness
  • rapid, irregular heartbeat

It's important to diagnose and treat symptoms of Graves’ disease when you first notice them. This will help prevent the symptoms from worsening and causing possible complications such as heart trouble or osteoporosis. To learn more about how to diagnose Graves’ disease and what to expect when you visit the doctor’s office, check out the next section on Diagnosing Graves’ disease for info on Graves' disease prognosis now.

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Tags: Congestive Heart Failure, irregular heartbeat, thyroid disorder, thyroid hormones, Heart arrhythmia, behind the eyes, hyperthyroidism, thyroid hormone, heart problems, heart failure, complications, Osteoporosis, alterations, sensitivity, Arrhythmia, medication, absorption, heart rate, Fertility, menstrual
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