What Is Hyperthyroidism​?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shape organ and is composed of two cone-like lobes or wings, connected via the isthmus. The organ is situated on the anterior side of the neck, lying against and around the larynx and trachea. It is difficult to demarcate the gland’s upper and lower border with vertebral levels because it moves position in relation to these during swallowing.

The thyroid gland is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary (to be specific, the anterior pituitary). The thyroid gland gets its name from the Greek word for “shield”, after the shape of the related thyroid cartilage. The most common problems of the thyroid gland consist of nodules, cancer, and an over-active thyroid gland, referred to as “hyperthyroidism”, and an under-active thyroid gland referred to as “hypothyroidism”.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid is overactive and produces excessive amounts of hormones.


What Are The Causes Of Hyperthyroidism?

The key causes to hyperthyroidism are…

  • Hashitoxicosis
  • Graves’ Disease
  • Toxic Adenoma
  • Toxic Multinodular Goiter
  • Subacute Thyroiditis
  • Subclinical Hyperthyroidism

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of An Overactive Thyroid?

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include…

  • Fast heart rate (palpitations)
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Stare and lid lag
  • Bulging eyes
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings, agitation, anxiety, depression, mania or psychosis
  • Insomnia
  • Warm skin
  • Sweating
  • Acceleration of growth
  • Changes in menstruation
  • Enlargement of thyroid gland (located over neck)

What Are The Risk Factors Of Hyperthyroidism?

  • Genetics and family history
  • Radiation therapy (neck exposure)
  • High iodine intake
  • Medications such as: lithium, interferon alfa, alemtuzumab, amiodarone

How Is Hyperthyroidism Diagnosed?

  • Thyroid function tests (TSH, FT4, FT3)
  • Thyroid antibodies (TSI, TRAB, TPO, TG)
  • Thyroid Uptake and Scan
  • Thyroid Ultrasound

What Are The Possible Treatments For An Overactive Thyroid?

Three treatment options: medicine, radioiodine therapy and thyroid surgery

  1. Medications
    • Beta Blockers – reduce symptoms until other treatments take effect (help control tremors, rapid heartbeat and nervousness)
    • Antithyroid medications (Methimazole, Propylthiouracil) – the quickest way to treat hyperthyroidism that is not permanent. These medications cause your thyroid to make less thyroid hormone
  2. Radioiodine Therapy – you take radioiodine 131 by mouth to destroy the cells of the thyroid gland that produce thyroid hormone. The dose usually used for hyperthyroidism treatment does not affect other body tissues. Up to 10-20% of patients may require a subsequent dose. This commonly causes hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, because the thyroid producing cells have been destroyed. Hypothyroidism is often safer and easier to treat than hyperthyroidism
  3. Surgical removal of the thyroid gland – the least commonly used treatment. This is curative but will result in hypothyroidism as the entire gland will be removed.
  4. On occasion, the condition may only require close monitoring.

Are There Preventative Steps Or Measures To Avoid Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism cannot be prevented, but it is treatable.

What Are The Risks If Hyperthyroidism Is Left Untreated?

If untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause serious problems with the heart disease, bone loss, muscle weakness, and irregular menstrual cycle.

Are There Other Related Conditions To Hyperthyroidism?

If hyperthyroidism is caused by Graves’ Disease, which is an autoimmune disease, the patient may be at risk for other autoimmune conditions.

Key Takeaways About An Overactive Thyroid

  1. Hyperthyroidism is a treatable condition but if left untreated, can be harmful and put stress on our body
  2. Common symptoms include sweats, weight loss, diarrhea, tremors, and fast heart rate
  3. There are many conditions that cause hyperthyroidism and evaluation by a trained endocrinology specialist is important to differentiate and treat the disorder

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