Book Review – Living Well With Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism by Mary J. Shomon
Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy
Mary Shomon, a patient advocate on a mission to educate people about thyroid issues, has an enormously popular website (www.thyroid.about.com) and several books under her belt. Mary’s expertise comes from having thyroid issues of her own and doing the research herself to help recover her health. She found, as many others do, that the current medical guidelines for treating thyroid disease leave many people unsatisfied, in significant discomfort, and still looking for answers.
In Living Well with Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism, Shomon covers the condition of having too much thyroid hormone. However, she points out that the problem is typically not simply malfunctioning thyroid glands. Autoimmunity—when the body’s immune system is directed at its own organs and tissues—is more likely the underlying cause.
The majority of people who are hyperthyroid have Graves’ disease, and the majority of these people also have a goiter, and the majority of these people are women. A goiter is a swollen thyroid gland in the neck. Besides altering physical appearance, there may also be tenderness in the neck, difficulty in swallowing or a feeling of being choked. It may feel like pressure in the neck or just a feeling of “buzziness” in the neck area.
Because an increase in thyroid hormones typically leads to an increase in the metabolic rate, many people experience rapid weight loss as the body breaks down both fat and muscle. Muscles become weakened, particularly in the legs, making normal functioning impossible. Bowel and urinary frequency can increase.
The increased metabolic rate also increases the body temperature making the sufferer intolerant of heat. In addition, the person’s heart may be racing and pounding, their blood pressure and pulse rates increase, and there may be a disruption of heart rhythm. This can be so serious that it can actually be life threatening.
Eye changes are also a hallmark of Graves’ disease. The eyes begin to protrude from their sockets, giving the person a look of perpetually staring. Eyes can also be dry and irritated. The eyelids may not close properly, or close more slowly. Pain or headaches may also ensue.
Mental functioning can also be impaired, with difficulty maintaining focus, making decisions, or remembering things. It can feel like the mind goes blank. Mood changes, including depression and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, may also surface in people with hyperthyroidism.
These wide-ranging symptoms provide an overview of the types of suffering patients may experience, any or all of which might not lead to a proper diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, at first. For example, teenagers who exhibit rapid weight loss might be suspected to be anorexic.
Anyone suspecting that they may have a problem with hyperthyroidism would find this book to be a valuable resource. Shomon created an easy-to-read primer, chock full of information and with a substantial number of additional sources to explore. This book is especially helpful for those seeking a diagnosis and deciding among treatment options. It includes detailed questionnaires to help you and your practitioner come to decisions about the nature of the problem.
Shomon presents the current medical thinking and treatments, with the pros and cons for each course of action. Both allopathic and alternative or complementary treatments are discussed. The book also delves into the aftermath of treatments, and the author warns that Graves’ disease can go into remission, but she emphasizes that it does NOT mean that the disease is cured. People will need to maintain a lifelong awareness and lifestyle changes to keep themselves healthy.