Graves' disease occurs when an individual's immune system inappropriately and abnormally produces certain antibodies that attack their thyroid gland and force it to produce more thyroid hormone than it should. Almost every organ in the body is affected by thyroid hormone production because the thyroid is responsible for controlling the way the cells in the body use energy. Graves' disease is between seven and eight times more likely to develop in women than in men, and usually affected individuals are between thirty and fifty years old. Symptoms prevalent in Graves' disease include a fast heart rate, heat intolerance, nervousness, irritability, trembling hands, problems with sleep, weight loss, muscle weakness, tiredness, irritability, nervousness, goiter, frequent bowel movements, and diarrhea. Graves' disease is diagnosed with the use of physical examination, blood testing, radioactive iodine uptake test, thyroid scan, and thyroid ultrasound.
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A Graves' disease patient may need to take anti-thyroid medications like methimazole or propylthiouracil as part of their treatment plan. Ant-thyroid medication is the most simple way Graves' disease can be treated, but it is not a permanent cure. These types of medications work to treat Graves' disease by causing interference in the normal production of thyroid hormone in the body. Anti-thyroid medications can take several months to have a noticeable effect on the patient because their thyroid gland has made and stored enough thyroid hormone to keep it in the body at high levels for several weeks. The anti-thyroid medication works do deplete these stores of extra thyroid hormone so the individual's levels will decrease to normal. The average amount of time it takes for this process is between twelve and eighteen months. Anti-thyroid medications may need to be taken for long periods if a patient's Graves' disease does not go into remission. Some individuals only need to take anti-thyroid medication initially until their disorder goes into remission, and only resume when a relapse of the disease is detected in a yearly evaluation. Anti-thyroid medication can produce side effects, which may force patients to use other methods to treat their Graves' disease.
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