Connection between bipolar and Graves Disorder
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Connection between bipolar and Graves Disorder?

Q: My Son has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder over the past two years. Our daughter has been diagnosed with Grave's Disease. Is this common? Are there common genetic factors? Any research we can pursue to become better informed and to increase our supportive effectiveness?

Dear Larry -- 

Well, let's start with a search for "Grave's" and "bipolar" on Pub Med.  Nope, nothing there: too specific.  [You may have done this already?] Back off to "thyroid" and bipolar: ah, that's helpful: you have to wade through all the articles relating thyroid to bipolar that actually have to do with lithium altering thyroid function.  But look at this one (Eur Psychiatry 1999 Oct;14(6):341-5): the bottom line is that in patients who have never seen lithium, there is a higher rate of thyroid problems, including hyperfunction.  (If you haven't already learned how to do a search like that, my site has a link and a guide).

When I don't really know anything specific, that's how I approach such a question.  Now for my own experience: there is some kind of connection between thyroid function and bipolar disorder, for sure.  The NIMH (National Institutes of Mental Health) team uses it quite a bit, one can see in their published case reports: they give thyroid hormone itself as a mood stabilizer.  One group led by Peter Whybrow at UCLA uses "hypermetabolic" thyroid (greater than normal levels of hormone given as a pill); I've had dismal results in the only two patients I tried, using the UCLA approach.  However, Whybrow and company have written a recent review of the thyroid/mood disorder relationship.  Here's the abstract.  (You would probably want to find the entire article)":

Abnormal thyroid functioning can affect mood and influence the course of unipolar and bipolar disorder. Even mild thyroid dysfunction has been associated with changes in mood and cognitive functioning. Thyroid hormone supplementation may have role in the treatment of certain mood disorders, particularly rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Women are more vulnerable to thyroid dysfunction than men and also respond better to thyroid augmentation. This article reviews the relationship between thyroid function and mood, and the use of thyroid hormones in the treatment of mood disorders. The impact of gender on these issues is also discussed.
I hope this illustrates what I believe many people can learn to do on their own using Pub Med as a lit search tool.  Good luck with your further education. 

Dr. Phelps

Published September, 2000

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