Graves’ Disease

About 13 million people in the United States have a thyroid condition. Although many are not as mysterious as Graves’ disease, they still go misdiagnosed. Graves’ disease is not as frightening as it sounds.

Sheryl, once a nurse, was 46 when she found out she had Graves’ disease. Yet, it was a mystery to her. “I’m a nurse by background, and I knew of this disease but just did not key into it,” she says.

Often the first noticeable sign is eye protrusion. Famous people with Graves’ include Barbara Bush and Olympic gold-medalist Gail Devers, who says, “I had it in 1988, and it took them two-and-a-half years to actually discover what it was.”

Graves’ often goes undiagnosed in athletes because it can mimic sports-related conditions like over-training or chronic fatigue. Symptoms include weight loss, irritability, changes in menstruation and heart palpitations.

The endocrinologist explains the mystery of Graves’ disease, “Your body makes antibodies against the thyroid, and those antibodies will stimulate the thyroid to be overactive.”

The thyroid gland releases hormones into the blood that affect metabolism, body temperature, muscle tone and vigor. “Almost every organ in the body is affected by the thyroid, and so that’s why the symptoms are so diffuse and yet non-specific.

Graves’ is treatable and can be easily diagnosed during a physical examination. Sheryl says, “Have a good outlook. Be positive, and I believe that’s true with anything.” She has a healthy new outlook since Graves’. She’s back in school for a psychology degree.

Graves’ disease is four to eight times more common in women, especially between the ages of 20 and 40. If you have symptoms, it’s also a good idea to research your family history, as it tends to be hereditary.

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