What is Hyperthyroidism?

I’ve talked a lot about hypothyroidism here, but there is another side of the spectrum. While some people have an underactive thyroid (like myself), others have an overactive thyroid, meaning they have hyperthyroidism.

So, what is hyperthyroidism?

From the Mayo Clinic: Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine.

This production of too much thyroxine (T4) can increase metabolism, leading to unexpected weight loss and rapid/irregular heartbeat.

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?

From the Mayo Clinic:

Hyperthyroidism can mimic other health problems, which can make it difficult for your doctor to diagnose. It can also cause a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including:

  • Unintentional weight loss, even when your appetite and food intake stay the same or increase
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — commonly more than 100 beats a minute
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Pounding of your heart (palpitations)
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
  • Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers
  • Sweating
  • Changes in menstrual patterns
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
  • An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Skin thinning
  • Fine, brittle hair

What causes hyperthyroidism?

  • Graves’ Disease– an autoimmune disease that stimulate your thryoid, causing it to produce too much T4. This is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. (Horrible name for a disease, in my humble opinion)
  • Plummer’s Disease– also called toxic multinodular goiter, it is a thyroid condition characterized by enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter), firm thyroid nodules, and overproduction of T4.
  • Toxic adenoma– this occurs when a single nodule (or lump) grows on the thyroid gland causing it to become enlarged and produce excess thyroid hormones.

Hyperthyroidism can cause several complications (from the Mayo Clinic):

  • Heart problems. Some of the most serious complications of hyperthyroidism involve the heart. These include a rapid heart rate, a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation that increases your risk of stroke, and congestive heart failure — a condition in which your heart can’t circulate enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
  • Brittle bones. Untreated hyperthyroidism can also lead to weak, brittle bones (osteoporosis). The strength of your bones depends, in part, on the amount of calcium and other minerals they contain. Too much thyroid hormone interferes with your body’s ability to incorporate calcium into your bones.
  • Eye problems. People with Graves’ ophthalmopathy develop eye problems, including bulging, red or swollen eyes, sensitivity to light, and blurring or double vision. Untreated, severe eye problems can lead to vision loss.
  • Red, swollen skin. In rare cases, people with Graves’ disease develop Graves’ dermopathy. This affects the skin, causing redness and swelling, often on the shins and feet.
  • Thyrotoxic crisis. Hyperthyroidism also places you at risk of thyrotoxic crisis — a sudden intensification of your symptoms, leading to a fever, a rapid pulse and even delirium. If this occurs, seek immediate medical care.

So, what are the treatment options for hyperthyroidism?

  • Radioactive Iodine– radioactive iodine is taken by mouth and is absorbed by the thyroid gland, causing it to shrink
  • Anti-thyroid medications– these medications gradually reduce symptoms of hyperthyroidism by preventing your thyroid gland from producing excess amounts of hormones
  • Beta blockers– Beta blockers are typically used to treat high blood pressure and don’t affect thyroid levels, but they can ease symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as a tremor, rapid heart rate and palpitations
  • Surgery (thyroidectomy)– if you’re pregnant or you otherwise can’t tolerate anti-thyroid drugs and don’t want to or can’t have radioactive iodine therapy, you may be a candidate for thyroid surgery, although this is an option in only a few cases

If experience any symptoms of hyperthyroidism, be sure to consult with your doctor or health care provider.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care provider 

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