What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism, also called overactive thyroid, is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body’s metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Hyperthyroidism is most commonly caused by an autoimmune disorder known as Graves’ disease. With Graves’ disease, your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland. This causes the gland to produce too much thyroxine.
Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by other autoimmune disorders, as well as inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) or taking too much thyroid hormone medication.
Hyperthyroidism can occur at any age, but it’s most common in women age 20 to 50. Hyperthyroidism is also more common in people with a family history of the condition.
Hyperthyroidism can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
– Weight loss, despite normal eating habits
– Increased appetite
– Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
– Sensitivity to heat
– Sweating and increased perspiration
– Changes in menstrual patterns in women
-Increased heart rate and irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
– Shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness (angina)
– Muscle weakness
– Tremors or trembling in your hands or fingers
Hyperthyroidism can also cause goiter, which is an enlargement of your thyroid gland.
Complications Hyperthyroidism can lead to serious complications, such as:
– Cardiovascular problems, such as congestive heart failure or atrial fibrillation
– Thyroid storm, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and severe agitation or confusion
– Pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage, premature delivery or low birth weight babies
Hyperthyroidism can also cause eye problems, such as bulging eyes (Graves’ ophthalmopathy). In rare cases, untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to coma or death.
Treatment Hyperthyroidism is usually treated with medications, surgery or radioactive iodine. The goal of treatment is to restore your thyroid gland to its normal function. Hyperthyroidism can be difficult to manage, so it’s important to work closely with your doctor to find the best treatment for you.
Hyperthyroidism can usually be controlled with medication. Commonly used medications include beta blockers, which can help control heart rate and tremors; antithyroid drugs, which slow the production of thyroxine; and radioactive iodine, which destroys part of the thyroid gland and leads to hypothyroidism.
Surgery is an option if other treatments haven’t worked or aren’t suitable for you. With surgery, most or all of your thyroid gland is removed. This is called a thyroidectomy. You’ll need to take thyroid hormone medication for the rest of your life after surgery.
Radioactive iodine is another treatment option. With this treatment, you take a pill or liquid containing radioactive iodine, which destroys part of the thyroid gland and leads to hypothyroidism. Radioactive iodine is usually only recommended if other treatments haven’t worked or aren’t suitable for you.
Hyperthyroidism can be a lifelong condition that requires careful management. Working with your doctor, you can find the best treatment for you and learn how to manage your condition.