Tuesday, July 11, 2006


There are several causes of hyperthyroidism. Most often, the entire gland is overproducing thyroid hormone This is called Graves Disease. Less commonly, a single nodule is responsible for the excess hormone secretion. We call this a "hot" nodule.

The most common underlying cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease, a condition named for an Irish doctor who first described the condition. This condition can be summarized by noting that an enlarged thyroid (enlarged thyroids are called goiters) is producing way too much thyroid hormone. [Remember that only a small percentage of goiters produce too much thyroid hormone, the majority of thyroid goiters actually become large because they are not producing enough thyroid hormone]. Graves' disease is classified as an autoimmune disease, a condition caused by the patient's own immune system turning against the patient's own thyroid gland. The hyperthyroidism of Graves' disease, therefore, is caused by antibodies that the patient's immune system makes which attach to specific activating sites on thyroid gland which in turn cause the thyroid to make more hormone. There are actually three distinct parts of Graves' disease: [1] overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), [2] inflammation of the tissues around the eyes causing swelling, and [3] thickening of the skin over the lower legs (pretibial myxedema). Most patients with Graves' disease, however, have no obvious eye involvement. Their eyes may feel irritated or they may look like they are staring. About one out of 20 people with Graves' disease will suffer more severe eye problems, which can include bulging of the eyes, severe inflammation, double vision, or blurred vision. If these serious problems are not recognized and treated, they can permanently damage the eyes and even cause blindness. Thyroid and eye involvement in Graves' disease generally run a parallel course, with eye problems resolving slowly after hyperthyroidism is controlled.

Characteristics of Graves Disease

Graves Disease effects women much more often than men (about 8:1 ratio, thus 8 women get Graves Disease for every man that gets it.

Graves Disease is often called diffuse toxic goiter because the entire thyroid gland is enlarged, usually moderately enlarged, sometimes quite big.

Graves disease is uncommon over the age of 50 (more common in the 30's and 40's)

Graves Disease tends to run in families (not known why)

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Bovine thyroid supplements can help with normal performance of the thyroid gland. Let’s start with what would be the causes of thyroid abnormalities and then we will move to treatment and thyroid supplement options.
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