The thyroid is a gland which is situated in the neck region. It is known to secrete a hormone in the blood that is responsible for growth and metabolism in the body. Hyperthyroidism can also be referred to as an overactive thyroid. This condition is triggered by unnaturally high levels of thyroid hormones being present in the body.
There are several causes of hyperthyroidism, and a wide range of possible symptoms; it is more common in women than men.
Hyperthyroidism as a condition can be managed and controlled through various medications that help in reducing the production of hormones from the thyroid gland. In a few cases, however, simple procedures like a radiotherapy or surgery may also be suggested.
What Triggers Hyperthyroidism?
There are a number of medical conditions that could trigger symptoms of hyperthyroidism in a person. One of the most common triggers of hyperthyroidism is the Graves' disease, which affects the autoimmune system. This disease results in antibodies being created in the body, which results in the thyroid gland being overstimulated into secreting an excess of hormones. Hyperthyroidism runs in many families, making it a genetically triggered disease in many cases. In case you are discussing your medical history with your doctor about hyperthyroidism, make sure you inform your doctor if you have a genetic history of this disease.
There are a few other causes which could trigger hyperthyroidism in a person, including:
- Excessive iodine is a key ingredient that triggers the production of the T4 and T3 hormones that create hormonal balance.
- Thyroiditis or swelling of the thyroid gland that results in the leakage of T3 and T4 out of the thyroid gland.
- Growths or tumor that occur in the ovaries or the testes.
What Are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?
When a person suffers from a condition like hyperthyroidism, the body can secrete excessive levels of thyroid hormones like T3 and T4 hormones. As these hormones regulate the metabolism in the body, very high levels of the thyroid hormones can cause an increased metabolism in a patient. Put simply, hyperthyroidism is known to speed up the processes being carried out in the body.
There is a certain set of symptoms that people experience when suffering from hyperthyroidism, however, it may not be necessary that one experiences all the symptoms mentioned here. Again the intensity and duration of the symptoms vary from person to person and on how long the thyroid glands have been secreting an excess of the T3 and T4 hormones.
Here are some of the most common symptoms that people experience with hyperthyroidism:
- Changes in the appetite, maybe increase or decrease in appetite
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Sudden or unexplained fatigue
- Diarrhea or increased frequency of bowel movements
- Increased palpitations of the heart
- Increased heat intolerance
- Sudden perspiration
- Missing periods or sudden appearance of menstrual periods
- Being mentally disturbed
- Muscular weaknesses
- Anxiousness or nervousness
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
- Breathlessness or sudden shortness of breath
- Stroke or paralysis
- Trembling or shaking
- Changes in the eyesight
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Hair loss or hair thinning
- Severe itching and hives
- Sudden rise in blood sugar levels
Is Hyperthyroidism a Serious Condition?
Any hormonal imbalance can trigger various other reactions in the body, which are not bothersome to some, while others can take a serious turn when their symptoms are left untreated for long. Untreated hyperthyroidism is a condition that can have serious implications on the health of a person and can result in several conditions which could even be fatal. When you are suffering from hyperthyroidism you are highly susceptible to heart-related complications. In hyperthyroidism, the body is perpetually in a mode of action that is beyond what is really required - think of being in a constant state of 'fight or flight'. This can mount up some serious pressure on the heart that can even result in a heart attack.
Some of the most common complications related to the heart that could result from untreated and uncontrolled hyperthyroidism are:
- Arrhythmia which is a condition wherein the heart beats at an abnormal rate
- Cardiac dilation wherein the heart cavities increase considerably in size that causes pressure and thinning of the cardiac muscles which can eventually lead to a heart failure
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
Untreated hyperthyroidism can also increase the risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis that particularly impacts women. In this condition, the bone mineral density in the body reduces considerably, due to increased thyroid levels, which can suck out the calcium and phosphate from your bones by excreting out much of them in the form of stool or urine. Calcium and phosphorous are essential requirements of the body to maintain healthy bones and tissues. When the bones do not get enough of these minerals they can become brittle, which in turn makes them very weak. It can also cause the body to demand a higher calcium supply, especially after a thyroid surgery. This eventually causes osteoporosis, meaning that your bones are susceptible to fracture.
To prevent hyperthyroidism it is important to keep a watch on the symptoms. In case you think you could be suffering from the condition, consult your doctor immediately to develop a treatment plan that's right for you.
Hyperthyroidism, when detected at the right time, can be treated easily with a few medications. There are various forms of treatments available for hyperthyroidism, but the treatment that best suits you would depend upon your symptoms, cause of the condition, and what you are most comfortable with. Before choosing the best treatment plan for you, your doctor is likely to review your medical history, conduct a physical check up and recommend any forms of diagnostic tests that may be necessary.
Here are some of the most commonly recommended treatments for hyperthyroidism:
- Antithyroid Medications: Antithyroid medicines are the most commonly administered treatment recommended for patients. These medicines stop the thyroid gland from secreting excessive amounts of T4 and T3 hormones. There are primarily two types of antithyroid medicines recommended in the US, namely: propylthiouracil (PTU) and methimazole which is also called Tapazole. The symptoms gradually begin to fade away in about three months, but one may need a long term medication to keep the condition under check. Treatment could also go beyond a year in a number of cases. The medications are tapered off slowly rather than stopping suddenly. Sometimes another form of anti-thyroid medication may be recommended which is known as a beta blocker which is effective throughout body in lowering the levels of T3 and T4 hormones. It belongs to the class of drugs that are primarily used to treat symptoms of hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias.
- Radioactive Iodine: This is a medicine to be consumed orally and is absorbed by the thyroid glands. Radioactive iodine acts slowly by destroying the thyroid. It is an effective treatment in completely curing this condition with very little side effects on the other functions of the body. In some cases a repeat treatment may be required. However, since the thyroid gland is removed permanently, one may need to undergo thyroid hormone replacement therapy to give the body its required dose of the thyroid hormones.
- Surgery: The complete or partial removal of the thyroid gland is known as thyroidectomy. A thyroidectomy should be done by an experienced surgeon and is thereby considered safe and effective. Like any other surgical procedure, there are certain risks associated with the thyroid surgery including a damage that could happen to the vocal cords or parathyroid glands of a person.
Hyperthyroidism can have serious health implications and hence a timely diagnosis with the right kind of treatment can go a long way in preventing this disease from impacting your quality of life.