The thyroid gland finely regulates the body's metabolism. When the thyroid is overactive, too much thyroid hormone can cause fatigue, sleep problems, weight loss and digestive problems, among others.
Hyperthyroidism is a disorder that happens when the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormone than the body needs.
Symptoms of hyperthyroid activity can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are nervousness or irritability, fatigue or muscle weakness, weight loss, a fast or irregular heartbeat, and frequent bowel movements or diarrhea, among others.
Hyperthyroidism has several causes, including Graves’ disease, thyroid nodules, and thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid) among others. An uncommon cause is a pituitary adenoma, which is a noncancerous tumor of the pituitary gland. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States.
Treatment depends on the cause of hyperthyroidism and how severe it is. Health care providers treat hyperthyroidism with medications, radioiodine therapy, or thyroid surgery. The aim of treatment is to normalize thyroid hormone levels in order to prevent long-term complications and to resolve uncomfortable
symptoms. Medications may include beta blockers, antithyroid therapy with methimazole and propylthiouracil , and radioiodine therapy.Thyroid surgery is the least used treatment and consists the removal of part or most of the thyroid gland.
- nervousness or irritability
- fatigue or muscle weakness
- heat intolerance
- difficulty sleeping
- hand tremors
- fast and irregular heartbeat
- frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
- weight loss
- mood swings
- trouble concentrating
- Increased sweating
- Irregular menstrual periods in women
- goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid that may cause the neck to look swollen
Eye changes. For some people with Graves' disease, the tissue behind the eyes becomes inflamed and swollen, which can cause bulging or discomfort in one or both eyes. Sometimes these eye changes may affect your vision. Eye symptoms can happen before, at the same time, or after other symptoms of Graves' disease begin. Eye problems are more common in people who smoke, and smoking may worsen eye symptoms. Eye problems often become better without treatment.
- Graves’ disease
- Thyroid nodules
- Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid)
- Consuming too much iodine
- Taking large amounts of thyroid hormone
- Some tumors of the testes or ovaries
- Getting medical imaging tests with contrast dye that has iodine
- previous thyroid problem, such as goiter or thyroid surgery
- a family history of thyroid disease
- have pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency)
- have type 1 diabetes
- have primary adrenal insufficiency
- eat large amounts of food containing iodine, such as kelp
- using iodine-containing medications such as amiodarone
- are older than age 60
- were pregnant or delivered a baby within the past 6 months
The health care provider will take a medical history and do a physical exam.
Health care providers may use several blood tests, such as the following, to confirm a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism and to determine its cause:
- TSH test
- T3 and T4 test
- Thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) test
- Radioactive iodine uptake test
- Thyroid scan
Living With Hyperthyroidism
If you have hyperthyroidism, eat a balanced diet to obtain the necessary nutrients.
Hyperthyroidism Other Treatments
Researchers are working to better understand, prevent, and treat this disease.
If your thyroid is removed with surgery or destroyed with radiation, you will need to take thyroid hormone replacement pills for the rest of your life.
Hyperthyroidism is a treatable condition. Some causes of hyperthyroidism may even go away without treatment.
Hyperthyroidism caused by Graves disease typically may become worse over time. Hyperthyroidism caused by Graves disease is associated with several complications, some of which are severe and may affect one's quality of life.
Thyroid crisis (storm), otherwise known as thyrotoxicosis, is a sudden worsening of hyperthyroidism symptoms that may happen with infection or stress. Patients will need to be treated in the hospital.
Call your doctor if you have symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Go to an emergency room or call 911, if you notice:
- Change in consciousness
- Fast and/or irregular heartbeat
Call your doctor if you are being treated for hyperthyroidism and you develop symptoms of underactive thyroid, such as:
- Mental and physical sluggishness
- Weight gain