Hyperthyroidism means overactivity of the thyroid gland, resulting in too much thyroid hormone in the bloodstream. The oversecretion of thyroid hormones leads to overactivity of the body’s metabolism.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
The following are the most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Nervousness, irritability, anxiety
Increased perspiration and difficulty tolerating hot weather
Weak muscles, especially in the upper arms and thighs
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Increased bowel movements
Weight loss in spite of a normal or increased appetite
Irregular menstrual cycle
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Graves’ disease is autoimmune disorder with symptoms directly related with hyperthyroidism. Researchers believe Graves’ disease is caused by an antibody which stimulates the thyroid too much. This overstimulation causes the excess production of thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease is categorized as an autoimmune disorder (a dysfunction of the body’s immune system). The disease is most common in young to middle-aged women and tends to run in families.
The annual incidences of Graves’ disease are 40 per 100,000 in the US. It is 4 to 6 times are more common in females than in males and mainly developed between ages 20 to 50. 1% to 5% of patients with Graves’ disease are children (peak at age 11 to 14 years). This disease has a strong hereditary and genetic component.
Symptoms of Graves’ disease are identical to hyperthyroidism, with the addition of three other symptoms. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. The three additional symptoms include:
Goiter (enlarged thyroid which may cause a bulge in the neck)
Bulging eyes (exophthalmos)
Thickened skin over the shin area
Other Forms of Hyperthyroidism:
Toxic nodular goiter (also called multinodular goiter): Hyperthyroidism caused by toxic nodular goiter is a condition in which one or more nodules of the thyroid becomes overactive. The overactive nodules actually act as benign thyroid tumors. Symptoms of toxic nodular goiter do not include bulging eyes or skin problems, as in Graves’ disease. The cause of toxic nodular goiter is not known.
Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis causes temporary hyperthyroidism, usually followed with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. There are three types of thyroiditis:
Subacute granulomatous thyroiditis
Silent lymphocytic thyroiditis
In addition, if a person takes too many thyroid hormone tablets, hyperthyroidism may occur.
How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, diagnostic procedures for hyperthyroidism may include:
Measurement of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream.
Thyroid ultrasound: A test to evaluate the thyroid gland for evidence of any nodules.
Thyroid scan: A test that uses a radioactive substance to create an image of the thyroid.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism is very specific for each patient. The goal of treatment is to restore the thyroid gland to normal function, producing normal levels of thyroid hormone. Specific treatment for hyperthyroidism will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Type of hyperthyroidism
Extent of the disease
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies\
Expectations for the course of the disease
Your opinion or preference
Treatment for Hyperthyroidism
Medications: Use of anti-thyroid drugs that help lower the level of thyroid hormones in the blood
Radioactive Iodine Ablation: Use of radioactive iodine, in the form of a pill or liquid, which damages thyroid cells so that production of thyroid hormones is slowed down.
Surgery: Total Thyroidectomy: to remove part of the thyroid (the overactive nodule).
Beta-blockers: Use of beta-blocking agents, which block the action of thyroid hormone on the body; (These drugs do not change the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood, but can control many of the bothersome symptoms.)