We have been hearing over the past few days that Mrs. Barbara Bush is receiving “comfort care” and it is being mentioned that she has been living with Grave’s Disease for many years. Today, I thought I would write a post that gives us some more information about this disease and let us in on what the former first lady has been living with.
Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism).
Grave’s disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. It is named after Robert Graves, an Irish physician, who described this form of hyperthyroidism about 150 years ago.
Grave’s disease is 7-8 times more common in women than men.
The second full week of January is Grave’s disease awareness. The ribbon color is teal.
Symptoms of Grave’s Disease
Common signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease include:
- Anxiety and irritability
- A fine tremor of your hands or fingers
- Heat sensitivity and an increase in perspiration or warm, moist skin
- Weight loss, despite normal eating habits
- Enlargement of your thyroid gland (goiter)
- Change in menstrual cycles
- Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido
- Frequent bowel movements
- Bulging eyes (Graves’ ophthalmopathy)
- Bulging eyes (exophthalmos)
- Gritty sensation in the eyes
- Pressure or pain in the eyes
- Puffy or retracted eyelids
- Reddened or inflamed eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Double vision
- Vision loss
- Thick, red skin usually on the shins or tops of the feet (Graves’ dermopathy)
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
How is Grave’s Disease Diagnosed?
- Physical exam – Your doctor examines your eyes to see if they are irritated or protruding and looks to see if your thyroid gland is enlarged. The doctor will check your pulse and blood pressure and look for signs of tremor.
- Blood sample – Your doctor will order blood tests to determine your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
- Radioactive iodine uptake – By giving you a small amount of radioactive iodine and later measuring the amount of it in your thyroid gland with a specialized scanning camera, your doctor can determine the rate at which your thyroid gland takes up iodine. The amount of radioactive iodine taken up by the thyroid gland helps determine if Graves’ disease or another condition is the cause of the hyperthyroidism.
- Ultrasound – This test can show if the thyroid gland is enlarged.
- Imaging tests – The doctor may order an imaging test, such as CT scan and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
How is Grave’s Disease Treated?
Some treatments include:
- Radioactive iodine therapy
- Anti-thyroid medications
- Beta Blockers
For Graves’ Ophthalmopathy
- Orbital decompression surgery
- Orbital radiotherapy
There is much more information on this autoimmune disorder. To learn more visit the sites listed in my “source” section.
Here is a link to a brochure on Grave’s disease that you can download.
In closing I want to thank Mrs. Bush for being such a wonderful first lady. I always liked listening to her when she would speak. I love the contagious smile she had. Those of us living with autoimmune disorders can appreciate her more by knowing what people with Grave’s disease may be living with.
God bless you Mrs. Bush.