Graves’ Disease is rarely life-threatening, but it brings a lot of health complications along. If treated before the condition becomes severe, Graves’ Disease is controllable. Think of it as an autoimmune condition that can be reversed with timely intervention.
Although despite the fact that Graves’ Disease is seldom fatal, this condition has multiple side effects to question about. If left untreated, it can manage to become severe and, in rare situations, fatal as well.
Here’s everything you need to know about Graves’ Disease, whether it is fatal, and the best possible treatments.
What Is Graves’ Disease?
Graves’ Disease is an autoimmune disorder defined by an overactive thyroid. In simpler words, it makes the thyroid produce too much hormones.
Graves’ Disease is a rare disorder of the thyroid and affects 1 out of 200 people. Women are commonly more prone to this disease, 10 times more than men. This disorder happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland (a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck), resulting in hyperthyroidism.
Since an overactive thyroid can mimic more than one condition, Graves’ Disease is often misdiagnosed. In fact, the exact causes of this disorder aren’t yet fully understood. Studies believe that Graves’ Disease can be a result of immunological, environmental, and hereditary factors.
Does Graves’ Disease Shorten Lifespan?
Graves’ Disease isn’t fatal, but if left untreated, it can potentially impact life expectancy. When diagnosed early and managed effectively, it doesn’t shorten the lifespan, nor does it lead to any severe health complications. However, this autoimmune disorder, when ignored or overlooked, can lead to various complications, including Goiter (neck bulging), Stroke, Heart Failure, Osteoporosis (bone thinning), Dermopathy in some rare conditions, Thyrotix Mypothy (a neuromuscular disorder), Infertility and complications in Pregnancy. Some patients may also experience other cardiovascular issues like irregular heartbeat and blood clots.
Even though Graves’ Disease isn’t directly associated with death, cardiovascular complications with hyperthyroidism may cause death in some patients. Another potential threat to life is linked with Thyroid Storm, associated with ill-treated or untreated hyperthyroidism. In severe cases of Thyroid Storm, the chances of death range between 20% to 50%.
Managing hyperthyroidism through medication and lifestyle changes can improve the life expectancy of Graves’ Disease.
When To See A Doctor? Graves’ Disease Treatment
If you suspect Graves’ Disease, prompt consultation with your doctor is crucial. Early detection and intervention will significantly impact the effectiveness of the treatment. A healthcare provider, ideally an Endocrinologist, will recommend medical examinations to check for antibodies that are attacking the thyroid gland, making it proactive.
The primary goals in treating Graves’ Disease include:
- Pausing Thyroid Complication
- Preventing Assosiated Problems
The treatment for Graves’ Disease aims to regulate the thyroid hormone levels while ensuring overall well-being. Common and effective treatments to address this condition include:
- Antithyroid Medications
These medications are typically initiated for the first year or slightly more post-diagnosis. Although Methimazole is a common medication, in some specific cases, the Endocrinologist may also prescribe Propylthiouracil.
PLEASE NOTE: These medications are prescription-based, and their usage requires careful monitoring and adjustments. Self-medication with any of them can lead to health complications.
- Thyroid Removal Surgery
This part of the treatment, although it isn’t the first approach to Graves’ Disease, is necessary in some cases. The medical expert may perform surgery to remove all parts of the thyroid to stop the proactive hormone production. Surgeries are usually recommended to those patients for whom other treatments are less responsive. After the surgery, patients are advised to stay on synthetic thyroid hormone medications lifelong.
- Radioactive Iodine Therapy
This medical treatment involves oral consumption of radioactive iodine. These medications are absorbed by the proactive thyroid gland, resulting in reduced hormonal production by disabling the thyroid tissue.
Radioactive Iodine Therapy is unsuitable (and dangerous) for pregnant ladies, breastfeeding mothers and patients suffering from Graves’ Ophthalmopathy.
Your Endocrinologist may reassess the treatment plan if any new symptom arises or the existing one worsens. They may also alter the treatment in case of other associated complications.
Overall, Graves’ Disease isn’t fatal, and one can live a long life as long as the condition is medically addressed. Getting the proper treatment and making positive lifestyle changes can improve life expectancy and quality of life.