Graves Disease / Hyperthyroidism

Graves disease or hyperthyroidism is a condition that causes your thyroid gland to make too much thyroid hormone, or become overactive.

The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is shaped like a butterfly. There are several hormones made by the thyroid gland that are important for growth and development. These same hormones also help with your energy level and  help the heart, liver, kidneys and skin work correctly. These important hormones are called thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). 

The thyroid gland is told to make T4 and T3 by another hormone which is made in the brain. This hormone is called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves disease.  There are other less common causes of hyperthyroidism. Your doctor can discuss these causes with you.

Graves disease is more common in teenage girls, but can be found in boys and girls of any age. 

The body's immune system sometimes gets confused and may begin to attack cells, tissues or organs that it is supposed to protect. When the immune system attacks the tissues in the thyroid gland, the gland releases too much T4 and T3 into the blood stream. 

There are several other, less common causes of hyperthyroidism that are much less common. Your doctor can discuss these causes with you.

  • Increased energy (hyperactivity)
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inability to tolerate heat
  • Trouble concentrating in school
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast, pounding heart beat
  • Bulging eyes
  • Irregular periods
  • Shaking

Hyperthyroidism can be treated by taking an anti-thyroid medication called Methimazole. This medication keeps your thyroid gland from making too much hormone. It is very important to make sure your child takes his/her medicine every day as instructed. Never change the medicine dose on your own.

Sometimes the anti-thyroid medication does not work.  If this occurs, there are other treatment options that your doctor will discuss with you.

For instance, radioactive iodine (RAI) can be used to treat hyperthyroidism when medication does not work.  There may be times when you and your doctor choose RAI instead of medication to stop the thyroid gland from working.  Another treatment is removal of part or all of the thyroid gland with surgery. 

If your child needs surgery, your doctor will discuss the risks / benefits with you. 

There are several symptoms to watch for that can help your doctor treat your child with the correct dose of medication.

The dose may be too low if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Increased energy (hyperactivity)
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inability to tolerate heat
  • Trouble concentrating in school
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast, pounding heart beat
  • Bulging eyes
  • Irregular periods
  • Shaking

The dose may be too high if your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Sleeping too much
  • Constipation
  • Cold, dry skin
  • Gaining weight too quickly
  • Low energy / activity level
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles

Never change a medication dose on your own.

Care

The doctor will want to see you frequently during the first year to check on your child's growth and development. Depending on your particular situation, your doctor may want to see your child as often as once a month. Blood tests during these visits will help your doctor make sure the medication dose is correct. 

What to Expect

It may take some time for your child to feel better. Please call your provider for concerns.


Last Updated 07/2014