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Hyperthyroidism: Dealing With Hormone Overproduction

Hyperthyroidism: Dealing With Hormone Overproduction

The thyroid is an organ that creates hormones that regulate your body’s use of energy, including your body’s metabolism and heart rate. Problems in the thyroid can cause problems in the reproductive, cardiac, and muscular systems. Hyperthyroidism is a condition wherein the thyroid produces and releases too many hormones. This causes weight loss, irregular heartbeat, and abnormalities in the menstrual cycle in women.

Hyperthyroidism is more common in women, with 2 in every 100 women affected by the disease. There is no cure for hyperthyroidism but the disease is manageable with anti-thyroid medication.

Causes of hyperthyroidism

Graves’ disease

Graves’s disease is an autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing it to “overreact” and produce high levels of thyroid hormones.

Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. The condition is linked to other diseases such as celiac disease, pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Thyroid nodules

Thyroid nodules are lumps filled with fluid that grow inside the thyroid. Hyperfunctioning nodules can result in the overproduction of hormones. Thyroid nodules are not usually cancerous.

Thyroid nodules can cause difficulty in breathing, pain in the neck and enlargement of the thyroid gland.

Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis is the collective term for a group of diseases that cause inflammation or swelling of the thyroid gland. These can be due to drugs, viruses, or bacteria. It can also be caused by diseases that causes the immune system to attack the body (autoimmune diseases).

Too much iodine

Iodine can be found in a lot of food and medicines. Salt available in the market is usually infused with iodine. Too much iodine in the system can cause the thyroid gland to produce more hormones.

Risk factors

Anyone can get hyperthyroidism but the disease is more common in:

  • People over the age of 60
  • Pregnant women
  • Women who gave birth in the last six months
  • People who have a history of thyroid disease in the family
  • Type 1 diabetics
  • People who have pernicious anemia
  • People who have undergone surgery in the thyroid gland.

Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism

  • Sudden or unexplained weight loss
  • Sweating too much
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Less frequent menstrual cycles
  • Arrhythmia or irregular heart beat
  • Rapid heartbeat that can reach up to 100 beats per minute.
  • Palpitations
  • Trembling hands and fingers (tremors)
  • Mood Swings
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Enlargement of the thyroid (goiter)
  • Bulging of the eyes (Grave’s ophthalmopathy)
  • Brittle hair
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Tiredness and muscle weakness

Diagnosis

Doctors will be able to diagnose hyperthyroidism through

  • Physical exam – Doctors will check for slight tremors, excessive sweating, and swelling in the neck area, as well as problems of the hair, skin and nails.
  • Thyroid ultrasound – Doctors conduct an ultrasound to check if there are any abnormal nodules in the thyroid.
  • Blood tests – Blood tests will confirm how much the thyroid is producing hormones. A high level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is usually an indication that someone has an overactive thyroid. This would vary depending on the type or case, but usually, it is the FT4 and FT3 that are increased in primary hyperthyroidism.
  • Thyroid Scan – A substance is injected into the vein in your hand and a special camera is used to produce images of the thyroid gland. The tests show how much iodine is present in the thyroid gland.
  • Radioiodine uptake test – The test measures how much the iodine the thyroid can absorb. Patients take radioactive iodine orally. Doctors check the patient after 4 – 6 hours to see how much iodine the thyroid has absorbed.

If the thyroid is absorbing too much iodine, it means it’s producing too much thyroxine, the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland.

Treatment of hyperthyroidism

Treatment depends on the patient’s age, their overall health, and what’s causing the thyroid to overreact.

  • Anti-thyroid medication – Anti thyroid medication prevents the thyroid from producing too much hormones. Symptoms gradually improve within a few months. Treatment can continue up to a year.
  • Beta-blockers – Beta blockers can alleviate the symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as tremors and irregular heartbeat. Patients will temporarily take this medication until thyroid levels are back to normal.
  • Radioiodine treatment – Patients take radioactive iodine in the form of a capsule or a drink to destroy some of the thyroid tissue. Too high a dosage of the radioactive iodine may destroy too much of the thyroid tissues, causing hypothyroidism. This treatment is not suitable for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Key Takeaway

Hyperthyroidism is a condition wherein the thyroid produces too many thyroid hormones, causing an abnormality in the person’s metabolism. Conditions such as Grave’s disease and thyroiditis can cause the thyroid to overreact.

Learn more about General Health Knowledge here.

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Sources

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid), https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hyperthyroidism Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373665 Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism, https://medlineplus.gov/hyperthyroidism.html Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive), https://www.thyroid.org/hyperthyroidism/ Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14129-hyperthyroidism Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism, https://familydoctor.org/condition/hyperthyroidism/ Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism, https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw149039 Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism: Diagnosis and Treatment, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2016/0301/p363.html Accessed March 18, 2021

Thyroid – hyperthyroidism, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/thyroid-hyperthyroidism Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid), https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/hyperthyroidism-overactive-thyroid Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/F_I/Hyperthyroidism-overactive-thyroid Accessed March 18, 2021

Hyperthyroidism, https://www.uclahealth.org/endocrine-center/hyperthyroidism Accessed March 18, 2021

Graves’ Disease, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/graves-disease Accessed March 18, 2021

Thyroid Nodule, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/13121-thyroid-nodule Accessed March 18, 2021

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Written by Hazel Caingcoy Updated 4 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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