Could Your Menopause Symptoms Actually be Graves’ Disease?

If you are suffering from fatigue, mood swings, weight changes, irregular menstrual cycles, and other common symptoms of menopause, you may actually be a victim of Grave’s Disease.

Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland, leading to an overproduction of thyroid hormones. This condition can cause a variety of symptoms that may be similar to other medical conditions – so it is often mistaken for conditions like menopause or other hormonal imbalances.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Graves’ disease affects nearly 1 in 100 Americans, or about 5.7 million people. It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States, accounting for about 4 out of 5 cases.

In this article thyroid specialist and integrative medicine doctor Ruthie Harper, MD in Austin TX explains the overlap between menopause and Grave’s disease – and explains how you can tell what is causing your symptoms.

Who Gets Grave’s Disease?

Grave’s disease is more common in women than men. The disease typically affects people between the ages of 20 and 50, but it can also occur at any age. Because this age and gender range overlaps with that of menopause, healthcare providers may mistakenly diagnose menopause as the primary cause of symptoms in women approaching their 40s, overlooking the possibility of Grave’s disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Grave’s Disease?

The thyroid is an essential gland that influences almost every function of the body – from reproduction to weight gain, to mood. So, when the body has a disease of the thyroid, such as Grave’s disease, it can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Grave’s disease can cause mood issues and psychological symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, and depression, which are also associated with menopause. These psychological symptoms can further complicate the diagnostic process, as they can be attributed to a wide range of various other factors.

Hyperthyroidism related symptoms of Grave’s disease can include weight loss, increased appetite, rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations), and even tremors. While eye-related symptoms may include bulging eyes (exophthalmos), dry or gritty sensation in the eyes, redness, double vision, light sensitivity, and eye pain or pressure.

Some individuals with Graves’ disease may experience skin problems such as swelling or thickening on the front of the lower legs (pretibial myxedema) or a red, raised rash on the shins known as Graves’ dermopathy.

Is It Menopause of Grave’s Disease?

Grave’s disease may also cause many symptoms that overlap with menopause including mood swings, heat intolerance, excessive sweating, and difficulty sleeping. Grave’s disease can also cause irregular or heavy menstrual periods, which can be mistaken as PCOS in younger women and menopause in older women.

Without proper diagnosis, it can be challenging to differentiate between these conditions. As a result, many physicians miss Grave’s disease and simple prescribe menopause treatments – such as estrogen therapy – without doing a full diagnosis.

How to Diagnose Grave’s Disease

To accurately diagnose Grave’s disease, a thyroid specialist like Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX will perform a thorough medical history review that looks at the ‘big picture,” a physical examination, and order very specific tests. Blood tests that measure levels of thyroid hormones (such as T3 and T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) can help identify the excess production of thyroid hormones associated with Grave’s disease.

In some cases, additional imaging studies or specialized tests, like a thyroid ultrasound or radioactive iodine uptake scan, may be necessary. Radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU) tests measure how much radioactive iodine the thyroid gland absorbs, providing information about its function. Ultrasound or scintigraphy may be performed to evaluate the size, shape, and structure of the thyroid gland.

What Causes Grave’s Disease?

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder – meaning that the patient’s own body mistakes one of its own parts as a foreign invader an attacks it. Like many autoimmune diseases, the exact cause of Graves’ disease is not fully understood. However, it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunological factors.

Certain risk factors, such as family history of autoimmune disorders, smoking, and high iodine levels, may also increase the likelihood of developing Grave’s disease. Additionally, some recent clinical studies suggest that infections or stress may trigger the onset of Graves’ disease in individuals with a genetic predisposition.

This comes as no surprise to integrative medicine doctors like Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX who know that diet, stress, and other lifestyle factors contribute to many chronic conditions and diseases.

How Grave’s Disease is Treated

Grave’s disease should always be treated by a thyroid specialist like Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX. While treatment options for Graves’ disease are aimed at restoring thyroid hormone levels to normal, many physicians will just throw a one-size-fits-all thyroid prescription at the patient.

However, the best choice of treatment should be customized to each patients test results, age, overall health, severity of symptoms, and personal preferences. Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX provides a comprehensive approach that may combine antithyroid medications, iodine therapy, lifestyle adjustments – and in rare but extreme cases thyroid surgery.

Radioactive iodine therapy should be used extremely sparingly as a last resort. This treatment involves taking a radioactive iodine capsule or liquid that is selectively absorbed by the thyroid gland, leading to the destruction of thyroid cells. Over time, this treatment typically results in hypothyroidism, which then needs to be managed with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

In other extreme cases, surgical removal of all or a part of the thyroid gland may be recommended, particularly if there are large goiters, or severe eye complications. However, other treatment options should be exhausted first to avoid destruction of the thyroid or invasive surgery if possible.

Grave’s Disease Doctor | Austin, TX

If you are a woman over 40 who is suffering from symptoms that are interfering with your enjoyment of life, it may be menopause – but it may also be Grave’s disease! Integrative medicine thyroid specialist Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose and differentiate between conditions like Grave’s disease and menopause. Then she will put in place a customized treatment and management plan that is individualized for you and your symptoms – so you can stop suffering and get your quality of life back!

Grave’s Disease Doctor | Austin, TX: (512) 343-9355