One in 2 patients with Graves' disease suffers impairments to their everyday lives. In the current edition of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, Katharina Ponto and coauthors, from Mainz University, describe affected patients' psychological stresses and occupational disability (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2009; 106(17): 283-9).
Between 2006 and 2008, they surveyed 250 patients about their attitudes to life, occupational problems, and impairments to their everyday lives. Additionally, 400 physicians in private practice were asked to report on the extent and type of occupational disability. 36% of affected persons were written off sick, 5% even had to take early retirement, and 21% sought psychotherapeutic help. Among the doctors, 34% treated patients with fully impaired earning capacity.
Graves' disease is the most severe manifestation of autoimmune thyroid disease. Patients complain of dry eyes (loss of corneal moisture), proptosis, and diplopia. In severe cases, the optic nerve may be compressed and acuity of vision impaired. In most cases, affected patients can be cured or their disease stabilized. The authors therefore make a plea for early prevention and speedy rehabilitation. The study shows that in spite of modern therapeutic modalities, the disease is accompanied by seriously impaired quality of life.