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Basedow’s disease: causes, symptoms and treatments

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Basedow’s disease: causes, symptoms and treatments
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Have you heard of Basedow’s disease? Also known as Grave’s disease,  this illness is a common cause of hyperthyroidism.   Hyperthyroidism can impact different functions of your body at varying levels of severity. Let’s look at the causes, symptoms and treatment for this disease. 

Hyperthyroid

Basedow’s disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.  This is when the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormone.  This hormone is useful at regulating different vital functions of our body which include our:

  • Metabolism,
  • Brain development, 
  • Breathing, cardio and muscular systems,
  • Weight regulation,
  • Cholesterol level regulation.  

This gland is located in the anterior part of the neck just below the larynx.
Due to the many ways in which thyroid hormones affect our bodily functions, a hyperthyroid can alter many aspects of our body.
Although our thyroid gland produces these hormones, they are regulated by another gland called the pituitary gland.  This tiny gland, which is the size of a pea, is found in the brain and produces and stores many hormones including Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).  If you are not producing enough thyroid hormones then TSH will be produced so that rate increases or inversely if you are producing too much.
If you suffer from a hyperthyroid then there is a fault in the link between the two glands.

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What causes Basedow’s disease

Basedow’s disease is an auto-immune illness.  This means that it is caused by a fault in the immune system which means that body produces “antibodies” which fight against itself rather than external enemies like viruses or bacteria.  In the case of Basedow’s disease the body’s own auto-antibodies (TRAb and TSAb) start to stimulate the thyroid gland so that it produces excessive thyroid hormones. The illness is often diagnosed when TRAK antibodies are found in the blood.

There is no real explanation why our body starts to attack itself in this way.  However people who suffer from this disease tend to have genetic factors or the internal environment of their body has gone through a recent change like during pregnancy and childbirth.

What are the symptoms?

Basedow’s disease can effect anyone but it is important to know that women aged between 20 and 30 are the most commonly affected.  

Common signs of Basedow’s disease include:

  • Hot, sweaty hands or excessive sweating;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Visible weight loss for no apparent reason;
  • Nervousness felt;
  • Increased heart rate;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Respiratory failure.

Basedow’s disease can also lead to clinical signs such as:

  • Burning eyes;
  • Swelling around your eyelids;
  • Increased sensitivity to light;
  • Goitre (a swelling at the front of the neck caused by an increase in size of the thyroid gland)

How to treat Basedow’s disease

As mentioned earlier, the disease is diagnosed when TRAK (or other antibodies in 30% of cases) are clearly found in the blood.  The amount of antibodies found will be able to determine the severity of the disease.  Therefore the treatment is prescribed depending on the level of TRAK in the blood.

If medical treatments aren’t enough, surgery can also be considered.  This involves a thyroidectomy.  In other words this means that the gland is surgically removed. Lastly, if the person suffers from an exophthalmitis (an interior eye inflammation) it will be treated by corticosteroid treatment.

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