Pediatric Graves' Disease

Pediatric Graves' Disease

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Summary

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy organs or tissue (in this case, the thyroid). It is a major cause of hyperthyroidism in children and adolescents.

Expanded Overview

The exact cause of Graves’ disease is unknown. As with all autoimmune diseases, it is believed that it may be caused by genetic factors or by a previous viral or bacterial infection. Graves’ disease is a lot more common in girls than in boys. 

Symptoms

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Poor weight gain despite adequate caloric intake
  • Goiter: enlarged thyroid
  • Increased number of bowel movements
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Bulging eyes

Risk factors

Diagnosis

There are several methods used for diagnosing Graves’ disease. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these methods:

  • History and physical exam
  • Blood tests to check thyroid hormone levels
  • Radioactive iodine uptake test (a noninvasive test to determine how much radioactive iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland over a period of time)

Treatment

Treatment for Graves’ disease may include:

  • Anti-thyroid medication to slow the production of thyroid hormones
  • Radioactive iodine: a liquid that is absorbed into the thyroid and reduces the gland’s size and activity
  • Surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland

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