Overview of hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) occurs when your thyroid gland overproduces a hormone called thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism speeds up your body’s metabolism, leading to unintentional weight loss and a fast or irregular heartbeat.
There are several treatments available for hyperthyroidism. Doctors use antithyroid drugs and radioactive iodine to decrease the production of thyroid hormones. Sometimes the treatment of hyperthyroidism involves surgery to remove the thyroid gland.
Although hyperthyroidism can be serious if you ignore it, most people respond well after being diagnosed and treated for hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is a thyroid condition. It produces tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), the two main hormones that regulate how cells use energy. Your thyroid gland regulates your metabolism by releasing these hormones.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid is making too much T4, T3, or both. Diagnosing an overactive thyroid and treating the underlying cause can ease symptoms and prevent complications
What are the causes of hyperthyroidism?
There are many causes of hyperthyroidism. Most of the time, the entire gland overproduces thyroid hormone. Less commonly, a single nodule causes excess hormone secretion, called a “hot” nodule. Functional thyroid tissue, which overproduces thyroid hormone, occurs in several clinical conditions.
Other causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Excess iodine, a key ingredient in t4 and t3
- Thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, causes t4 and t3 to leak out of the gland.
- Tumours of the ovaries or testes.
- Benign tumours of the thyroid or pituitary gland.
- Large amounts of tetraiodothyronine taken through dietary supplements or medication.
Symptoms of overactive thyroid
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:
- Fear, anxiety and irritability
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Feel tired all the time
- Heat sensitivity
- Muscle weakness
- More urination than usual
- Constant thirst
- Loss of interest in sex
Hyperthyroidism risk factors
- Family history, especially Graves disease.
- Female gender
- Personal history of some chronic diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, malignant anaemia, and primary adrenal insufficiency.
In most cases, it cannot be prevented. It can run in a family (Graves’ disease) or appear when your body produces more thyroid hormone (during or after pregnancy). If members of your family have Graves disease, ask your healthcare provider about getting tested.
Hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed by:
- Medical history and physical examination. During the test, your doctor may try to detect hyperactive reactions, eye changes, and warm, clammy skin when your fingers tremble slightly. Your doctor will dilate your thyroid gland and check to see if it is irregular or pale when swallowing and if your pulse is fast or irregular.
- Blood test. Blood tests that measure thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) can make a diagnosis. High thyroxine levels and low or no TSH levels indicate an overactive thyroid. The amount of TSH is important because it is the hormone that signals the thyroid gland to make more thyroxine.
These tests are especially necessary for the elderly who may not have the symptoms.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism
There are several ways to treat an overactive thyroid. Before choosing the one that works best for you, your doctor will consider the cause, your age, your general health, and the severity of your symptoms.
It is a medicine that is taken by mouth to help reduce the size of the thyroid. It usually takes 3-6 months to work.
Taking this drug will slow down your thyroid and your risk of developing hypothyroidism. If you develop hypothyroidism, you may need to take daily medications to help replace thyroid hormones.
A section or all of your thyroid gland may be surgically removed. You will then have to take thyroid hormone supplements to prevent hypothyroidism, which occurs when you have an underactive thyroid that secretes too little hormone. Also, beta-blockers such as propranolol can help control your rapid pulse, sweating, anxiety, and high blood pressure. Most people respond well to this treatment.