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Coping With Graves' Disease Lasts a Lifetime
Date:4/8/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- At first, everyone thought that Sasha Asumaa's problems were those of a typical teenage girl.

The 16-year-old was always tired and had trouble sleeping. She was moody and grumpy. Teenage stuff.

Except she also felt sick, like she had the flu all the time. She threw up nearly every morning before she went to school.

And she had shingles. "Only old people get that," said Asumaa, now in her mid-30s and living in Marietta, Ga. "Just weird stuff." Her liver counts were so bad, she said, that doctors figured her for a drug and alcohol addict. And her heart raced so much that her heart rate would be 130 beats a minute when she was lying in bed.

She was tested for mononucleosis. She was tested for laryngitis. Nothing came back positive. Then her mother urged their family doctor to test her daughter for thyroid, noting that problems with the gland ran in her family.

"They tested it -- and, of course, it was through the roof," Asumaa recalls. "He said, 'You have a thyroid problem. You need to go see an endocrinologist.'"

Asumaa said she waited three months to see the specialist recommended by her doctor, but when she did, the endocrinologist quickly determined that she had Graves' disease, a type of hyperthyroidism.

"I started taking thyroid-blocking medication," she said. "It worked somewhat, but I didn't take it like I was supposed to. I was 18. I had no idea what I was dealing with. I didn't know how it was affecting my body."

Doctors urged Asumaa to undergo radioactive iodine treatment, which basically destroys the thyroid. "Even at 18, I was like, that's pretty extreme," she said. "I didn't want to just zap my thyroid and then have to take a thyroid pill for the rest of my life."

But after doing some research, Asumaa came to the conclusion that radioactive iodine would be the best thing for her.

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