The more I speak to other people about thyroid disease, and Graves’ disease specifically, the more I realize too few people know about this dangerous issue that can come up with Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism. Most of the time thyroid disease if managed, can cause a lot of issues with your health, most of the time it’s not going to have you in danger of dying immediately. Thyroid storm is one of those exceptions. Medline plus defines thyroid storm as “Thyroid storm is a life-threatening condition that develops in cases of untreated thyrotoxicosis (hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid).”
Great definition there. Except it doesn’t tell you what it can cost people. After speaking to several people who have gone thru a storm, I am finding out what the real cost can be. Modern Medicine.com gives us some scary stats: “Only 1% – 2% of people with hyperthyroidism will develop TS, but the mortality rate for patients with untreated TS ranges from 50% – 90%. With early intervention, mortality drops to less than 20%.” Now THAT is cause for concern. Latest estimates on how many people have hyperthyroidism is about 1% of the population. Population of the world is about 7 Billion, so 1% is 7 million so 2% of that still leaves a possible 1.4 MILLION people at risk of thyroid storm.
So, you are someone with Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism. What should you be aware of for this condition, so you can get help in the event that it does happen to you? Here’s the various symptoms you will have:
- Tachycardia, heart pounding extremely hard
- Extreme sweating
- Unable to get your breath properly
- Very restless, can’t sit still at all suddenly
- Body temperature will start going up
- Agitation, very angry suddenly for no reason, unable to settle down, anxiety
- Loss of consciousness
- Sudden Diarrhea
- Chest pain
- Heart problems
Some of the things that can lead to a thyroid storm can be; Graves’ disease pushing your thyroid levels too high, over medication of thyroid hormones when you are not being monitored correctly, treatment with RAI (radioactive iodine), severe infection in a person with hyperthyroidism and medical stressors such as a heart attack. If you have hyperthyroidism, make sure you keep these symptoms above in mind, if they come up, get to the ER and tell them you suspect thyroid storm. Several people on the thyroid boards have reported that a parent with Graves’ disease died or had permanent heart conditions after going through a thyroid storm that went untreated.
If you have Graves’ disease and/or hyperthyroidism. Always make sure you keep your appointments for labs and doctor visits. Keep on top of your levels and if they give you anti-thyroid medication, TAKE IT. Many people decide not to take their anti-thyroid medicine because they start gaining some weight back they lost with hyperthyroidism untreated. Please do not do this. One of the Graves’ disease groups I am a member in, lost a member last year. Her daughter came in earlier this year and told us that her mother who was age 42 had died. She didn’t take treating her Graves’ disease seriously and frequently skipped her anti-thyroid meds. By the time she decided maybe she should take it seriously, that is when she had thyroid storm. She made it through the storm, but the resulting damage to her heart caused her to have a heart attack and die shortly afterwards. Do not be that person who leaves behind their family because they did not take their illness seriously.
If you can take care of yourself, be mindful of your symptoms and your thyroid levels, you can manage your hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease quite well. There are many dietary paths you can take to help calm your system down somewhat, and various techniques to keep your levels where they need to be.