The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that secretes hormones into your bloodstream. Your thyroid gland provides a vital function by regulating your metabolism. Hyperthyroidism is a health problem that occurs when your thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces more thyroid hormone than you need. When your thyroid gland is overworked due to hyperthyroidism, your metabolism accelerates and this can cause various ailments. You can find more information below.
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland normally located in the lower anterior part of the neck. The task of the thyroid gland is to produce thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then transported to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, maintain the body’s normal temperature, and help the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs function properly.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism, a condition of overactive thyroid gland, is a disease in which an overactive thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone . The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck and produces a hormone that is critical for normal metabolism. When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, it leads to overstimulation of the body’s metabolism. Typical symptoms include irritability, anxiety , weight loss, and hypertension (high blood pressure) .
Hyperthyroidism can be caused by a variety of factors, such as the body’s autoimmune response or an abnormal growth in the thyroid gland. A condition called Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Other causes include thyroid nodules, iodine-induced hyperthyroidism, and excessive production of thyroid stimulating hormone by the pituitary gland. Hyperthyroidism is more common in women than men.
Rapid diagnosis of hyperthyroidism greatly positively affects the quality of treatment, so it is important to see a doctor immediately if in doubt. Many people who follow a regular medical care and treatment plan lead active, normal lives.
Hyperthyroidism can lead to serious, potentially life-threatening symptoms and complications such as cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure . If you or someone you are with has symptoms such as chest pain , palpitations or shortness of breath, you should see a doctor immediately.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism result from overstimulation of metabolism due to excessive production of thyroid hormone. Symptoms may include:
- anxiety and irritability
- difficulty sleeping
- Changes in skin and nails
- Vision changes such as puffy eyes and sensitivity to light
- feeling overly energetic
- Goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland)
- increased appetite
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Muscle weakness and fatigue
- unexplained weight loss
Serious symptoms that may indicate a life-threatening condition
Hyperthyroidism can lead to serious and life-threatening complications such as angina, hypertension, and heart failure. If you or someone you are with has any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor:
- Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as fainting or unresponsiveness
- Change in mental state or sudden change in behavior such as confusion, hallucinations and delusions
- Chest congestion and wet cough
- chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure or palpitations
- High fever
- Breathing problems such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, wheezing when breathing
What causes hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is overworked and produces too much thyroid hormone, which is important for normal metabolism. Various conditions can cause the thyroid gland to be overactive and stimulate it to produce high amounts of thyroid hormone.
Causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Autoimmune thyroid disease (Graves’ disease) in which the thyroid gland is attacked by the body’s own immune system
- Excessive levels of thyroid stimulating hormone in the pituitary gland
- Iodine-induced hyperthyroidism
- thyroid nodule, a non-cancerous cyst that grows in the thyroid gland and produces additional thyroid hormone
- thyroiditis, which is inflammation of the thyroid gland due to a viral infection
What are the risk factors for hyperthyroidism?
Women are more likely than men to develop hyperthyroidism. A number of other factors also increase the risk of developing the disease, although not everyone who carries the risk factors will develop the condition.
Risk factors for hyperthyroidism include:
- Some viral infections
- drug treatments, such as some cancer and AIDS treatments
- Excessive intake of thyroid hormone for the treatment of hypothyroidism
- Family history of Graves’ disease
- Autoimmune disease history
- taking iodine supplements or exposure to iodine
- Thyroid trauma or injury
How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have hyperthyroidism, diagnosis is usually a simple matter. Physical examination usually reveals an enlarged thyroid gland and a rapid pulse. Doctors will also examine the structure of your skin and look for tremors in your fingers. If you have Graves’ disease, you may have fast reflexes and some abnormalities in your eyes.
A diagnosis of hyperthyroidism will be confirmed by laboratory tests that measure the amount of thyroid hormones [thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3)] and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. High levels of thyroid hormone and low TSH in the blood are common when the thyroid gland is overactive. If blood tests show that your thyroid is overactive, he or she may want to measure levels of thyrotropin receptor antibodies (TRAbs), which confirms a diagnosis of Graves’ disease.
Your doctor may also want to take a picture of your thyroid (thyroid scan). The scan will also learn if your entire thyroid gland is overactive or if you have toxic nodular goiter (toxic goiter) or thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation). The thyroid gland may also need to be tested for iodine.
How is hyperthyroidism treated?
Hyperthyroidism cannot be prevented. However, with prompt diagnosis and treatment, high levels of thyroid hormone can be returned to normal levels. With regular medical care and monitoring of the thyroid gland, many people can lead normal and healthy lives.
Hyperthyroidism treatment includes:
- beta-blockers, which can minimize certain symptoms, such as rapid heart rate and anxiety
- Antithyroid drugs that reduce the overproduction of thyroid hormones
- Surgery to remove the overactive thyroid gland in some cases of hyperthyroidism
- Ingestion of radioactive iodine, which reduces overactivity and overproduction of thyroid hormone
- Testing thyroid hormone levels in the blood and lowering the dose of thyroid hormone used to treat hypothyroidism
What are the possible complications of hyperthyroidism?
The complications of untreated hyperthyroidism can be serious and, in some cases, life-threatening. By following the treatment plan your doctor has designed for you, you can help minimize the risk of serious complications from overworking the thyroid gland.
Complications of untreated hyperthyroidism include:
- angina, chest pain
- anxiety and depression
- cardiac arrhythmias
- Eye and vision problems, such as eye swelling, chronic eye irritation, and vision changes
- Hair loss
- Heart failure
- Osteoporosis (bone loss)
- fast heart rate
- Unexplained weight loss