Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Hyperthyroidism and Graves Disease

The thyroid is simply a gland positioned on the windpipe, just below the Adam's apple. It resembles a butterfly as it consist of two lobes connected by a bridge known as the isthmus. The gland is very important in the  excretion of thyroid hormones, in particular thyroxine (T4) which makes up the majority of the hormones secreted into the bloodstream. Thyroid hormones play a vital role in regulating the metabolism of the body and are salient for healthy brain development in children.
Anatomy of the Thyroid
Like the name suggests, Hyperthyroidism is the over-production of the hormones produced and secreted by the thyroid. Therefore, an excess in these hormones causes the metabolic processes in the body to undergo at a fast rate than normal, which leads to a myriad of symptoms such as anxiety and hyperactivity. The thyroid gland can also be seen as visibly swollen around the neck, portraying a lump that is also known as a goitre.
Diagram of a goitre and hyperthyroidism
One of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism is Grave's Disease. This is an autoimmune response where antibodies of the immune system target the Thyroid gland rather than pathogens in the body. Consequently, the thyroid produces an excess of thyroxine. Not only is the thyroid targeted, but the antibodies can also attack the tissue behind the eyes. Sufferers with Grave's Disease can often have protruding and swollen eyes as a result which is known as exophthalmos
Grave's Disease and Hyperthyroidism
Both conditions are difficult to treat and have no original cause, although both are thought to be due to a combination of both environmental and genetic factors. The disease is more common in women than men and most often occurs between the ages of 20 to 40 years old. It is often treated with Thionamides which helps limit the amount of thyroxine produced by the thyroid. Other options include radioiodine treatment to shrink the thyroid or surgery to remove parts of the gland. However, both treatments may lead to the thyrroid gland becoming under-reactive also known as hypothyroidism.


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