Graves vs Hashimoto’s Disease

SimpleNursing Editorial Team May 11, 2023
Nurse visiting senior patient at home. She is talking with senior woman about her condition and checking thyroid gland.

As a nursing student, you’ll learn about a wide range of diseases affecting the human body, including endocrine disorders like Graves and Hashimoto’s Disease. These two diseases may sound similar, but they are very different in their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Let’s explore the key differences between these two autoimmune diseases, providing you with the knowledge you need to excel in your studies and future nursing practice.

Graves vs Hashimoto’s Disease

Graves and Hashimoto’s disease are both autoimmune diseases that affect the thyroid gland. Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues, mistaking them for foreign invaders. 

The thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that regulate metabolism, heart rate, and other bodily functions. When the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, it can lead to a range of symptoms and health problems.

Graves Disease (also known as toxic diffuse goiter) is an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid gland to produce too much thyroid hormone. This excess hormone production can lead to hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the body’s metabolism increases. Some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism include weight loss, rapid heartbeat, tremors, and anxiety.

On the other hand, Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid gland to produce too little thyroid hormone. This can lead to hypothyroidism, which is a condition in which the body’s metabolism is slowed down. Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, cold intolerance, and depression.

In short, Graves disease causes the thyroid to become overactive, leading to hyperthyroidism. Conversely, Hashimoto’s disease causes the thyroid to become underactive, leading to hypothyroidism.

While Graves and Hashimoto’s Disease both affect the thyroid gland, they have very different underlying causes. Graves Disease is caused by the production of antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to produce too much thyroid hormone. Hashimoto’s Disease is caused by the production of antibodies that attack and damage the thyroid gland, leading to decreased thyroid hormone production.

Graves Disease

Graves disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This overproduction of hormones can cause a wide range of symptoms, including weight loss, rapid heartbeat, tremors, and anxiety.

In severe cases, Graves disease can lead to a life-threatening thyroid storm, making it critical to understand the symptoms and treatment options for this condition.

Graves disease occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that mimic thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone than the body needs. This excess hormone is what causes the symptoms of Graves Disease. Patients may also experience bulging eyes, a condition known as Graves ophthalmopathy.

The diagnosis of Graves disease typically involves a physical exam, blood tests (to measure thyroid hormone levels), and imaging tests such as ultrasound or a radioactive iodine uptake scan. 

Treatment options for Graves disease may include medication to block thyroid hormone production, radioactive iodine therapy to destroy the thyroid gland, or surgery to remove the thyroid gland. It’s vital to understand the potential side effects of these treatments, how to manage them, and how they impact the patient.

Hashimoto’s Disease

In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, leading to inflammation and damage over time.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease may include fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, joint pain, dry skin, and constipation. In some cases, there may be a noticeable enlargement of the thyroid gland, known as a goiter.

Diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease typically involves a physical exam, blood tests to check for thyroid hormone levels and the presence of specific antibodies, and sometimes imaging tests like an ultrasound.

Treatment for Hashimoto’s disease often involves hormone replacement therapy, where synthetic thyroid hormones are taken orally to replace the hormones that the thyroid gland can no longer produce adequately. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove all or part of the thyroid gland.

Nursing care for patients with Hashimoto’s disease involves educating them on the importance of taking their medications as prescribed, monitoring their symptoms and evaluating and reporting lab values, and addressing any potential complications. 

Nurses should also be aware of the potential side effects of thyroid hormone replacement therapy and provide support and education to patients to help them manage any symptoms or concerns.

Get a Better Understanding of Your Nursing Material

As a nursing student, it’s important to understand autoimmune diseases like Graves and Hashimoto’s so that you can provide better care. And understanding these conditions is made easier with a supplemental studying tool.

SimpleNursing provides students access to study materials and practice exams anytime, anywhere, making it easier to fit studying into their busy schedules.

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