What are the causes of hyperthyroidism?
There are many causative factors for hyperthyroidism. The most common cause is an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease.
What is Graves’ disease?
Graves’ disease is another autoimmune condition and the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It occurs when the immune system commandeers or hijacks the role of the brain’s pituitary gland which normally regulates the thyroid gland’s hormone production. The antibody linked to Graves’ disease is called thyrotropin receptor antibody or TRAb. TRAb can override the pituitary gland and cause too much production of thyroid hormone resulting in hyperthyroidism.
What are the symptoms of Graves’ disease?
The symptoms of Graves’ disease reflect the production of too much thyroid hormone being produced. Someone with Graves’ disease may display a fine tremor of the hands or fingers. They may also experience warm, clammy skin or increased perspiration. Diarrhea is a common complaint along with frequent loose bowel movements. Some symptoms that are shared by both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid conditions include:
- Menstrual cycle changes
- Reduced libido
There are some overt symptoms of Graves’ disease that are pathognomonic or peculiar to this condition. Rarely, people develop Graves’ dermopathy which is characterized by thick, red patches of skin usually on the legs and feet. There is also Graves’ opthalmopathy which causes bulging eyes, dry/red eyes, excessive tearing, fixed stare, puffy eyelids, pressure or pain around the eyes, light sensitivity, and double vision. More rare symptoms and signs include blurry vision and corneal ulcers.
It seems like the most common causes for both hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease) and hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) are based in a body’s faulty immune system. How can the immune system be treated and can the symptoms of hyperthyroidism be relieved?
The immune system as well as the affected systems of the body can be supported and the symptoms of thyroid conditions can be improved. There is a branch of healthcare called functional medicine that involves all the different functions of the body. By detecting weaknesses in these functions through lab testing, the body’s systems can be supported with treatment resulting in improved health.
In practice, we are seeing many more patients, both male and female, with thyroid disorders in general. What is most disconcerting is the younger ages of these patients. Whereas thirty years ago middle-age women were the group most affected, now many seeking treatment are in their teens and 20’s.