The thyroid gland is located in front of your windpipe in the lower front section of your neck. It produces two types of thyroid hormones – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which are secreted into your blood circulation and flow all throughout your body. These hormones regulate the function of all your body’s cells and tissue.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces excess thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck. Thyroid hormones are in charge of regulating your body metabolism, which refers to all of the chemical processes that occur within your body, including tissue growth, production of hormones and energy, distribution of nutrients through blood, and elimination of waste products.
Hyperthyroidism causes the body’s normal rate of functioning to increase, affecting all of your body’s functions. This can cause behavioral, emotional, and physical changes. Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can result in serious medical problems. Although it cannot be prevented, hyperthyroidism is usually treatable and rarely fatal.
The thyroid gland is located in front of your windpipe in the lower front section of your neck. It produces two types of thyroid hormones – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which are secreted into your blood circulation and flow all throughout your body. These hormones regulate the function of all your body’s cells and tissue. T3 and T4 are vital for good health and control of your energy levels and metabolism.
T3 and T4 production are regulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in your brain. When levels of T3 and T4 are low, the hypothalamus produces thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which alerts the pituitary gland that it should produce thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The TSH then travels down the bloodstream and tells the thyroid gland to churn out more T3 and T4. The pituitary gland stops producing TSH when T3 and T4 levels are high.
Hyperthyroidism, also known as thyrotoxicosis, occurs when an overactive thyroid gland produces excess thyroid hormone. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s Disease. Abnormal growths on the thyroid gland, called thyroid nodules, may also create too much thyroid hormone. Thyroiditis causes antibodies that affect thyroid hormone production and also damage the thyroid gland. In rare cases, hyperthyroidism is caused by consuming medications or food that have high levels of iodine.
Symptoms will vary from person to person, and depend on how much thyroid hormone is being produced by your thyroid gland, as well as your age and how long you’ve had the condition. Hyperthyroidism can affect your emotions, behavior, and physical health.
Hyperthyroidism causes your metabolic rate to increase, causing hand tremors, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, palpitations, high body temperature, red and itchy skin, sweatiness, exhaustion, and muscle weakness.
Hyperthyroidism can affect your emotions by making you feel depressed, nervous, anxious, restless, moody, and irritable. You may also experience difficulty sleeping.
The condition can also affect your digestive system by causing diarrhea, frequent bowel movements, and weight loss, even if you are eating as you usually do.
Your fingernails may become soft and easily breakable while your hair becomes fine, thin, and falls out.
Both genders may experience a decreased sex drive. Hyperthyroidism may lead to impotence in men as a result of stopping sperm production, which causes temporary infertility. Enlarged breasts are another classic sign of male hyperthyroidism.
There are additional symptoms associated with Grave’s Disease, including skin and eye problems, goiter, clubbed fingertips, thick fingernails, and lumpy red skin on the tops of the feet and shins. Grave’s Ophthalmopathy also results in reddened and bulging eyes, and is more likely to occur in smokers.
Your doctor will test your blood to determine if you have hyperthyroidism. TSH assay will determine if your thyroid gland is properly functioning while thyroid hormone blood tests will measure levels of T3 and T4.
In some cases, your doctor may order a Thyroid Scan and Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test or a Thyroid Ultrasound. Thyroid scans detect issues with the thyroid gland and identify how it’s functioning as well as pinpointing areas of underactivity or overactivity. Additionally, it can determine the presence of thyroid nodules or cancer.
Your blood will also be tested to check for antithyroid antibodies in order to diagnose Grave’s Disease. If it is found that you have Grave’s Ophthalmopathy, a Computed Tomography Scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging are two painless procedures that allow your doctor to view your eye structures.
The goal of treatment is to alleviate your symptoms and restore your metabolism to normal levels. Treatment will be based on the cause and severity of your symptoms. People with subclinical hyperthyroidism may receive treatment to avoid hyperthyroidism symptoms.
Hyperthyroidism is typically treated with radioactive iodine, antithyroid medications, or surgical removal of the thyroid gland. Radioactive iodine treatments stop the production of thyroid hormones by destroying the thyroid gland. A surgery called thyroidectomy removes part or all of your thyroid gland via an incision in the front of the neck. Patients that have their thyroid gland removed or receive radioactive iodine treatments will be required to take thyroid hormones for the remainder of their lives.
In some cases, people being treated for hyperthyroidism will develop hypothyroidism, which is when your body produces insufficient thyroid hormone, due to the treatments. Inform your doctor if you begin to feel tired, cold, or gain weight. Your doctor can then change your medication to restore your metabolism.
Do not smoke if you have Grave’s Disease, as smoking leads to Grave’s Ophthalmopathy. Use eye drops if you have Grave’s Ophthalmopathy, and you may be advised to wear glasses for eye protection.
Though not preventable, hyperthyroidism is treatable and you can reduce your symptoms. Contact your doctor if you suspect that you have hyperthyroidism, as early diagnosis and treatment can help you avoid symptoms.
Lifestyle changes can help reduce your symptoms. Avoid caffeine, reduce stress, and quit smoking.
Attend all of your scheduled doctor’s appointments and take your antithyroid medication as prescribed. Your doctor will continue to monitor your dosage.
Am I At Risk
Risk factors for developing hyperthyroidism include family history of thyroid problems, stress, smoking, and autoimmune disease, such as Addison’s Disease or type 1 diabetes. Women have a higher risk of developing hyperthyroidism.
The most critical complication of hyperthyroidism is a potentially fatal condition known as thyroid crisis or thyroid storm. This complication occurs when the thyroid gland produces a great amount of thyroid hormone in a short time period. It may happen after a bout of stress of serious infection. Call emergency medical services immediately if you experience delirium or shock, as well as fever, abdominal pain, and decreased mental alertness.
Call your doctor immediately if you experience fatigue, very rapid heartbeat, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, as these are possible symptoms of a heart problem.
Other symptoms that warrant calling your doctor include unusually low or high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, fever, confusion, diarrhea, drowsiness, and irritability. Bulging and reddened eyes may be symptoms of Grave’s Ophthalmopathy. Other warning signs include a swollen throat, trouble swallowing, and weight loss despite normal eating habits.