WEDNESDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- The trace mineral selenium
improves quality of life and slows the progression of eye problems
in people with the autoimmune disorder known as Graves' disease, a
new study says.
Italian researchers report that they compared daily selenium use
to both a medication called pentoxifylline and a placebo, and found
that selenium could benefit people with Graves' disease with eye
involvement, without causing side effects.
"Our study demonstrates that patients with mild Graves' orbitopathy, [who are] usually not given any specific treatment, can benefit from a six-month course of selenium selenite [100 micrograms twice daily], both in terms of amelioration of eye manifestations and improvement in quality of life," said study author Dr. Claudio Marcocci, a professor of endocrinology at the University of Pisa, Italy.
Graves' disease is an autoimmune disease that usually affects
the thyroid gland, causing hyperthyroidism, according to the U.S.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK). Common symptoms of the disease include nervousness,
irritability, weight loss, fatigue, muscle weakness, hand tremors
and trouble sleeping, according to the NIDDK.
The disease can also cause the immune system to attack the area
around the eyes, causing inflammation in the tissue behind the eye
socket. This can cause the eyes to protrude, a common sign of
Graves' disease. When the eyes are affected by Graves' disease it's
often referred to as Graves' ophthalmopathy or Graves'
Symptoms of Graves' ophthalmopathy include dry eyes, puffy
eyelids, double vision, sensitivity to light, a feeling of eye pain
or pressure and difficulty moving the eyes, according to NIDDK.
Approximately one out of four people with Graves' disease will
develop mild to moderate eye symptoms that usually last for a year
or two and then resolve on their own, reports NIDDK. Fewer than 5
percent of people with Graves' develop severe eye symptoms.
There aren't any known effective treatments for Graves'
ophthalmopathy, said Dr. Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at
the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. Lubricant eye drops
can help relieve some symptoms, but they don't alter the course of
Pentoxifylline is an anti-inflammatory medication and selenium
acts as an antioxidant. The researchers suspected that both
substances had properties that could help prevent some of the
damage caused by Graves' eye disease.
The study authors recruited 159 people with mild Graves'
orbitopathy, and randomly assigned them to receive two daily doses
of either 100 micrograms of selenium, 600 milligrams of
pentoxifylline or a placebo.
After six months, the researchers found that selenium treatment,
but not pentoxifylline or the placebo, was associated with an
improved quality of life. Selenium was also found to slow the
progression of Graves' orbitopathy and reduce eye symptoms compared
to the placebo and pentoxifylline.
Additionally, the researchers found that the benefits of
selenium lasted for at least another six months after the study
There were no adverse effects reported with selenium or placebo
use. Several people on pentoxifylline reported nausea, bloating and
Results of the study are published in the May 19 issue of the
New England Journal of Medicine.
One caveat noted by Marcocci is that the population in the area
where this study was conducted tends to be selenium-deficient. So,
in an area where people get sufficient selenium, it's not clear if
additional amounts of this trace element would still provide
benefit. Selenium is found in plant sources, such as corn, wheat
and soybean, according to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements.
It's also found in some meats, such as chicken, beef and
Warman pointed out that another limitation of this study is that
it's quite small, with only about 50 people in each treatment
"There doesn't appear to be a downside to selenium, so it might be worthwhile to try this relatively simple treatment to prevent eye symptoms. But, a larger study should be done," he noted.
Marcocci said he would recommend that people with Graves'
orbitopathy try selenium for six months to see if their symptoms
Learn more about Graves' disease from the
U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive ...
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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