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Hyperthyroidism / Overactive Thyroid

Overview

Hyperthyroidism, commonly referred as overactive thyroid is the production of high amounts of thyroid hormones in the body, a condition which is also known as thyrotoxicosis.

Thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the neck region, right below the adam’s apple. It secretes hormones that affect your heart rate, body temperature, and other physiological functions, among others.

Excessive production of these hormones causes discomfort, and in some instances, can also lead to serious adverse effects.

Overactive thyroid disease can affect anybody, but it’s reported to be 10 times more common in women than in men, and typically begins around 20 to 40 years of age.

Hyperthyroidism is known to speed up the metabolism in the body, which leads to unwanted weight loss and a quick or irregular pulse.

Causes

There can be several causes of hyperthyroidism. Plummer’s disease, Graves’ disease, Thyroid nodules and Thyroiditis are just a few illnesses that can lead to hyperthyroidism.

  • Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune condition, is one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism in adults. Antibodies cause the thyroid to generate an excessive quantity of hormones, which results in overactive thyroid that is detrimental to health. Similar to hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease also affects women at a higher rate than men.
  • In thyroiditis, the immune system attacks the thyroid, leading to the release of stored thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. This excessive release results in elevated levels of thyroid hormones, causing hyperthyroidism symptoms such as increased metabolism, thyroid weight loss, and rapid heartbeat.
  • The thyroid gland may become inflamed by an autoimmune disease or other causes during pregnancy. Excess thyroid hormone stored in the gland may escape into your blood as a result of inflammation. In certain cases, thyroiditis may be uncomfortable, but generally painless. Thyroid nodules are lumps that develop on the thyroid gland. Thyroid tissue lumps may become hyperactive, resulting in the production of an excessive amount of thyroid hormone.

Other causes include:

  • Excess iodine
  • Tumors of the testes or ovaries
  • Tumors of pituitary or thyroid gland
  • Elevated thyroid levels due to the intake of dietary supplements or medicine

Symptoms

There’s a range of several hyperthyroidism symptoms, which can affect your entire body. Some individuals might experience all these symptoms, while others might only get affected by some.

Hyperthyroidism symptoms include:

  • Hyperthyroidism results in a high metabolic rate.
  • Racing heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Feeling shaky
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Poor heat tolerance
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Weight loss
  • Irregular menstrual periods

– An enlarged thyroid gland known as goiter, may develop, which may be symmetrical or one-sided in appearance.

– Exophthalmos, or the appearance of big eyes, is a sign of this condition and is thought to be associated with Grave’s disease.

– Breast growth is one of the thyroid symptoms in men, while hyperthyroidism in women shows as an irregular menstrual cycle.

– Atrial fibrillation, a severe arrhythmia that may progress to strokes and congestive heart failure, can be caused by hyperthyroidism.

Other hyperthyroidism symptoms include:

  • Nervousness
  • Increased hunger
  • Restlessness
  • The inability to focus
  • Brittle and falling off of hair
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Thinning of the skin

Diagnosis

The first stage in the identification of symptoms and hyperthyroidism diagnosis is to have a complete medical history and a thorough physical examination done. Moreover, additional tests may also be carried out to confirm hyperthyroidism diagnosis, which include:

  • Cholesterol Test: It may be necessary for your primary care physician to examine your cholesterol levels. Low cholesterol may be an indication that your body is burning calories rapidly at a higher metabolic rate.

     

  • T3 and T4: These tests assess the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. These tests are particularly important in the elderly, who may not show any of the usual hyperthyroidism symptoms that are seen in younger individuals.

     

  • TSH: It is a pituitary hormone which promotes the production of hormones in the thyroid gland. Your TSH should be lower if your thyroid hormone levels are normal or high. The initial indication of hyperthyroidism may be an unusually low TSH.

     

  • Triglyceride: Your amount of triglyceride may also be checked. Low triglycerides may be an indication of an increased metabolic rate, similar to low cholesterol.

     

  • Thyroid Scan: If your thyroid is hyperactive, your primary care physician may use this information to evaluate if you have it. It may reveal whether overactivity is caused by the whole thyroid gland or just by a specific area of the gland.

     

  • Ultrasound: It can assess the size and mass of the whole thyroid gland.

     

  • MRI/CT Scan: It may reveal whether there is a pituitary tumor that causes the illness.

Treatment

  • Medication: Antithyroid medicines work by inhibiting the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones. They are the most common treatment option for hyperthyroidism.

     

  • Radioactive Iodine: More than 70% of Americans who have hyperthyroidism get radioactive iodine. It has an important influence on the cells that produce hormones and effectively destroy them.

     

    Typical adverse effects of this therapy method include dry mouth, dry eyes, painful throat, and altered taste sensations. It is possible that precautions may need to be taken immediately after treatment in order to avoid the spread of radiation to others.

  • Surgery: Surgical removal of a part or the whole thyroid gland is another option. To prevent an underactive thyroid, you will need to take thyroid hormone supplements. Beta blockers may help you control your fast pulse, high blood pressure, sweating and anxiety.

When To See A Doctor

A primary care physician should be seen if you are suffering unexplained weight loss, fast heartbeat, excessive perspiration, swelling at the base of your neck, or any other signs of an overactive thyroid. Because many of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be mistaken for those of a variety of different illnesses, it is critical that you explain the changes you have seen to your physician in detail.

If you have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism or are presently being treated for it, visit your primary care physician on a frequent basis as directed so that the physician can keep track of your progress.

Disclaimer

This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about hyperthyroidism or any other medical conditions, please see a primary care physician for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.

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