Graves Disease vs Hashimoto's Thyroiditis - Symptoms, Causes, Differences

Graves Disease

It is an immune system disorder which results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism).

With this disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid and causes it to make more thyroid hormone than the body needs.

Women are up to 8 times more likely to get the GD than men. According to the Graves’ Disease & Thyroid Foundation, it affects up to 3% of the population in the US. Worldwide, Graves’ disease affects an estimated 2-3% of the population.

It is named after an Irish doctor, called Robert Graves, who discovered the thyroid condition in the 1830s.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of GD include:

  • rapid or irregular heartbeat;
  • irritability;
  • anxiety;
  • thick, red skin commonly on the shins or tops of the feet;
  • fatigue;
  • bulging eyes;
  • a fine tremor of the fingers or hands;
  • frequent bowel movements;
  • reduced libido;
  • erectile dysfunction;
  • a change in the menstrual cycles;
  • enlargement of the thyroid gland;
  • unexplained weight loss;
  • an increase in perspiration;
  • heat sensitivity.

Complications

Without treatment, GD can cause some serious health problems, including:

  • osteoporosis and thinning bones;
  • an eye disease called Graves’ orbitopathy, that can cause light sensitivity, double vision, and eye pain as well as vision loss. GD is the only type of hyperthyroidism which is associated with inflammation and swelling of the eye tissue;
  • an irregular heartbeat which can lead to stroke, heart failure, blood clots, and other heart-related problems.

Causes

The cause of GD is thought to be related to many factors including pregnancy, gender, nutrition, genes, emotional stress, and possible infections.

Risk Factors

The risk of getting the condition is increased in:

  • people under emotional stress;
  • women who are pregnant or have recently given birth;
  • a diet rich in iodine, meat, eggs, and dairy products (a 2015 study established that complete vegetarians had lower rates of hyperthyroidism than people who followed a non-vegetarian diet);
  • people with other autoimmune diseases.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of GD is based on findings during a physical exam and your symptoms and it is confirmed by laboratory tests which measure the amount of thyroid hormones and thyroid-stimulating hormone in the blood.

Treatment

There are 3 treatment options for GD:

Beta-blockers

These medications include:

  • Nadolol (Corgard);
  • Metoprolol (also used for angina, hypertension, or acute myocardial infarction);
  • Atenolol (Tenormin);
  • Propranolol (Inderal).

These drugs block the effect of hormones on the body, but they don’t inhibit the production of thyroid hormones.

Antithyroid Medications

These medications (such as – propylthiouracil and methimazole) help prevent the thyroid from producing hormones.

Radioactive Iodine Therapy

This treatment involves taking radioactive iodine by mouth.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

It is a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) in the US and affects approximately 2 percent of the population.

HT is more common in women and may occur at any age.

Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of HD include:

  • more frequent infections, colds, or illnesses due to low immune function;
  • fatigue (low energy levels);
  • infertility;
  • changes in the menstrual cycle, including irregular or absent periods;
  • anxiety;
  • sexual dysfunction;
  • low sex drive;
  • depression;
  • excessive thirst;
  • frequent urination;
  • weight gain;
  • trouble breathing;
  • feeling cold easily;
  • rough, cracked skin;
  • hair loss or hair thinning;
  • swelling in the joints;
  • swollen eyes, face, and belly;
  • muscle tenderness and aches;
  • bloating;
  • constipation.

Complications

If left untreated, HD can cause complications, including:

  • depression;
  • decreased libido;
  • high LDL cholesterol;
  • babies born to women with untreated HD have a higher risk of birth defects;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • confusion;
  • anemia;
  • enlarged thyroid – HD can cause a large goiter to grow, that may affect your physical appearance;
  • heart problems – HD can lead to heart failure, an enlarged heart, or other forms of heart problems.

Causes

This disease is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers (such as – rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy, and emotional stress).

Risk Factors

Your risk of HD may be higher if you have:

  • Addison’s disease (a rare disorder of the adrenal glands);
  • vitiligo (a medical condition which causes white patches on your skin);
  • excessive iodine intake;
  • vitamin D deficiency;
  • rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain);
  • radiation exposure;
  • lupus (an autoimmune disease that causes swelling);
  • type 1 diabetes.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of HD is based on the results of blood tests which measure levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone and thyroid hormone produced in the pituitary gland and your symptoms.

Treatment

Levothyroxine (brand names: Synthroid, Levoxyl, and Unithroid) is a man-made hormone which replaces the missing thyroid hormone thyroxine.

Note – since thyroid hormones act very slowly in the human body, it may take several months after starting the treatment for your goiter to shrink and your symptoms to go away.

Graves Disease vs Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – Differences

Graves’ disease is a thyroid condition which results from abnormal stimulation of the thyroid gland by thyroid stimulating immunoglobins (TSIs) which bind to and activate thyrotropin receptors. It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder which causes inflammation of the thyroid gland. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels in the blood).

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474632/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3271310/
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jtr/2016/9697849/
 

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