Grave’s disease is an autoimmune thyroid condition and one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism. In Grave’s disease, something triggers the immune response to produce Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Receptor (TSHr) antibodies. These antibodies stimulate the thyroid gland to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone, resulting in hyperthyroidism. The antibodies also stimulate the thyroid gland to grow, often resulting in an abnormal enlargement, or goiter.
Hyperthyroidism is characterized by hypermetabolism and elevated serum levels of free thyroid hormones. The diagnosis of Grave’s disease is based on signs and symptoms as well as abnormal thyroid function tests.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism & Grave’s disease
- Difficulty sleeping
- A rapid or irregular heartbeat
- A fine tremor of your hands or fingers
- An increase in perspiration or warm, moist skin
- Sensitivity to heat
- Weight loss, despite normal eating habits
- Enlargement of your thyroid gland (goiter)
- Change in menstrual cycles
- Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido
- Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
- Graves’ ophthalmopathy (eye complications -Eye bulging, tearing, dryness, irritation, puffy eyelids, inflammation, light sensitivity, blurred vision, pain)
- Thick, red skin usually on the shins or tops of the feet (Graves’ dermopathy
Source: Mayo Clinic
Conventional medical treatment for Grave’s Disease
In conventional medicine, patients diagnosed with Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism are typically given anti-thyroid medications or beta blockers. Thyroid suppressing drugs hinder the thyroid gland’s ability to use iodine. Since iodine is necessary to make thyroid hormone, blocking iodine production will lower thyroid hormone levels. Since hyperthyroidism and Grave’s disease can cause increased heart rate or abnormal changes in heart rhythm, beta blockers are often given in conjunction to thyroid suppressing drugs to temporarily block the effects of excessive thyroid hormone on the heart.
When medications alone are unable to treat the symptoms and side effects of a hyperactive thyroid, doctor often recommend radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid gland or surgery to remove the gland. Once the thyroid gland is destroyed or removed, patients usually become hypothyroid and will require thyroid hormone medications for the remainder of their lives.
Functional medicine for patients with Grave’s Disease
Regardless of whether a person has Grave’s disease, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, identifying the root issues and cellular stressors that caused their compromised thyroid physiology should be the priority. Even if you have already had your thyroid gland irradiated or removed, the underlying stressors that caused this disease still need to be addressed to prevent other forms of autoimmune disease from developing in the future.
Many of the same foundational concepts that apply for hypothyroidism also hold true for hyperthyroidism. Strategic Functional Medicine at Rejuvagen may be the solution to help correct the underlying challenges of your thyroid physiology. There is no single protocol for hyperthyroidism that is best for all patients, however, uncovering and removing cellular stressors, supporting cellular function and supporting your thyroid physiology can help prevent further damage and start the pathway to healing.