Hyperthyroidism is a health condition where the thyroid gland is overactive and produces large amount of the hormone thyroxine. The thyroid gland is situated at the front of the neck and releases hormones that control the body’s metabolism. When a patient is suffering from hyperthyroidism, his/her metabolism rate shoots up indefinitely causing irregular heartbeat, sudden weight loss, nervousness, sweating, sleeping issues and more.
Hyperthyroidism can create other health complications which often make it difficult for the doctor to diagnose.
Causes of Hyperthyroidism
The thyroid gland produces (T3) triiodothyronine and (T4) thyroxine hormones which control most of the body functions. If the gland makes too much of T3 and T4 hormones, it is definitely hyperthyroidism.
One of the common and prime causes of hyperthyroidism is the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease. In this disease, the body produces an antibody called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) which causes the thyroid gland to release excessive amount of thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease usually runs in families and found more active on women.
Another reason for hyperthyroidism is a multinodular goiter. These are lumps in the thyroid gland that cause the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. Additionally, swelling of the thyroid gland- known as thyroiditis- resulting from an immune problem may also temporarily cause hyperthyroidism. Furthermore, too much iodine intake in the form of food or medication can also trigger the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Diagnosis of hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed by analyzing symptoms and based on them endocrinologists conduct physical exam and blood test to assess levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormones T3 and T4. He may perform an ultrasound to check the thyroid for inflammation.
It can cause a range of signs and symptoms:
- Even if your appetite and food intake remain the same, you may experience sudden weight loss
- Irregular heartbeat, mainly 100 beats per minute
- Muscular weakness or tiredness
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Changes in bowel movements
- Dry skin
- Irregular periods or missed periods
- Increased intoleration to heat
- Goiter, which may appear as an inflammation at the bottom of the neck
- Problems with fertility
- Changes in vision
Various treatment options are available today if you have hyperthyroidism. Endocrinologists use anti-thyroid medications that prevent the thyroid gland from producing excess amounts of hormones. Another way to treat hyperthyroidism is to give patients radioactive iodine therapy, wherein they are asked to take radioactive iodine in the form of medication. The treatment is absolutely safe and it slows down the thyroid activity considerably. The medicine is usually taken on a daily basis.
For pregnant women who are unable to withstand anti-thyroid drugs and radioactive iodine therapy, the only option is surgical removal of the thyroid.
In some cases, endocrinologists also prescribe beta-blockers which block the effects of thyroid hormones.