Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition; it is due to the immune system attacking the thyroid. This causes an overproduction of thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms may include irritability, anxiety, trouble sleeping, rapid heartbeat, weight loss, increased perspiration, sensitivity to heat, a fine tremor in the hands or fingers and weight loss. The patient may also experience more frequent bowel movements, women may notice a change in the menstrual cycle and the thyroid gland may become enlarged.
One common symptom is exopthalmos, or a “bulging” of the eyes. It is also known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy. It is possible for the eyes to be dry, there may be a sensation of “grit” in the eyes. The eyes may also become red or inflamed and sensitive to light. The eyes may also become watery. If the condition becomes severe ulcers may form on the cornea, eye movements may become limited and vision may be affected (blurred, double vision or reduced vision). Smokers are much more likely to develop Graves’ ophthalmopathy than non smokers.
Research appearing in IUBMB Life (2001;51:105-109) looked at the effect supplementing with antioxidants had on Graves’ disease. The subjects were 56 patients between the ages of 22 and 66, with hyperthyroidism. They were randomly divided into three groups and received either methimazole (anti-thyroid medication) alone, with an antioxidant supplement (200 mg vitamin E, 3 mg beta carotene, 250 mg vitamin C, 7.5 mg zinc, 7.5 mg manganese, 1 mg copper and 15 mcg selenium), or a combination of the drug and antioxidant. The antioxidant alone did not affect thyroid hormone levels. It was noted that hyperthyroid patients had indicators of oxidative stress (need for antioxidants); malondialdehyde is increased and superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase activity is decreased when compared to healthy controls. The authors of the study believe that antioxidants may be a valuable adjunct to help relieve some of the symptoms of Graves’ disease. Other research appearing in Pharmazie (2005; 60(9): 696-700) looked at DNA damage to peripheral lymphocytes (white blood cells) in patients with Graves’ disease. Treatment with antioxidants reduced the cellular damage.