Hyperthyroidism: An Overview
Hyperthyroidism is essentially a condition of the thyroids. The thyroid, which is a small gland shaped like a butterfly is located at the front of your neck. It produces two primary hormones known as tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which control how your cells utilize energy. When an individual has hyperthyroidism then it means that the thyroid is producing too much of either T3 or T4 or both.
The three common types of Hyperthyroidism that experts essentially know of:
- Diffuse toxic goiter
- Toxic multinodular goiter
- Toxic adenoma
TSH levels chart
Hyperthyroidism Signs and Symptoms
There are quite a few Hyperthyroidism symptoms that individuals must know about. There are some that require immediate medical attention and some that do not and can be treated otherwise. We have listed some of the most common ones across the different types and depending on their intensity, before for your reference and knowledge:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Hand tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Developing a low tolerance for heat
- More frequent bowel movements
- Rapid weight loss
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- An increase in appetite
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Increase in hair loss
- Vomiting and nausea
- Development of breasts in men
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
These are some common reasons for Hyperthyroidism that people experience.
Who is at Risk of Hyperthyroidism
There are various Hyperthyroidism risk factors as it can happen to anyone due to multiple reasons. However, experts have been able to identify certain possible risk factors related to this. We have mentioned them below for your reference and understanding of the same:
- Someone who is suffering from certain medical conditions like viral infections and autoimmune disorders
- Pregnant women
- Even though this can happen to anyone irrespective of age but is known to be more common in people who are above the age of 60.
- Women are more likely to develop this than men
- Genetic factors
There are a variety of Hyperthyroidism causes which have been identified by health experts. Graves’ disease which is an autoimmune disorder is known to be the most common cause of this condition. Apart from that, we have discussed below for your understanding some of these causes in details:
- An increase in iodine which is said to be the key ingredient in T3 and T4.
- Testes or tumours of the ovaries
- Benign tumour of the pituitary gland or thyroid
- When an individual has consumed large amounts of tetraiodothyronine through either medications or dietary supplements
- Thyroiditis or inflammation of thyroid
How is Hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
To diagnose hyperthyroidism, the doctor might initially need to take the family and medical history in depth to understand whether further testing is required or not. Before any diagnostic testing is undertaken, these tests would be important as they would provide the doctor with the right kind of information to see which tests, if at all, need to be conducted. The doctor would also ask you in detail about all the symptoms you have been experiencing, even the minor ones, as they can be indicators of this condition. Here is how this condition can be diagnosed:
- Test for free T3 and T4 levels – These tests would help understand the amount of T3 and T4 hormones in the bloodstream. An abnormal level would result in a diagnosis of hyper/hypo thyroidism
- TSH test – The thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates the thyroid to produce more hormones. If the thyroid hormone levels are on the higher side, the pituitary would decrease the production of TSH. Low levels of TSH can result in hyperthyroidism symptoms in females and males.
- Thyroid scan – This is a radioactive iodine uptake scan that helps the doctor see how overactive the thyroid is. The measure is taken by seeing how much iodine it ‘takes up’ from the bloodstream. After taking a small tablet or liquid of iodine, you will lie down with a special camera taking an image of your thyroid. This scan can reveal how much of the gland is causing the problem.
- Thyroid ultrasound – This test can measure the size of the entire thyroid gland as well as can detect any masses in or around it.
- CT or MRI – This can show the presence of any kind of tumor on the pituitary gland.
Your endocrinologist would be able to help you best by ordering the right kind of tests upon understanding the hyperthyroidism symptoms you might be experiencing.
How is Hyperthyroidism treated?
It is important to engage in correct and timely hyperthyroidism treatment early as possible to avoid fatal and irreparable damage in the future. Dealing with the symptoms at the earliest can also help in better management and benefits the overall lifestyle patterns.
- Medication – One of the most effective ways to treat this condition would be to take anti-thyroid medications that would prevent the thyroid from making these hormones. This should be done with a consultation from the doctor as the right dosage and amount would be key here. These are safe for children, adults, and even women who are pregnant. Anti-thyroid meds can have some side effects like joint pain, hair fall, rashes, etc.
- Radioactive iodine – This can effectively destroy the cells that produce the thyroid hormones without damaging other tissues in the body. It can be taken orally as a tablet or in liquid form. However, many people develop the opposite condition – hypothyroidism upon taking these tablets. There can be some side effects to this treatment as well.
Surgery – If you opt for a thyroidectomy, some or all of the thyroid gland is removed. This surgery may be recommended for some, but not all, people with overactive thyroid symptoms. It may be advised when patients do not respond to other treatments. It can also be a good way to treat thyroid cancer. If the gland is completely removed, one may have to take thyroid supplements for the rest of their life.
How can Hyperthyroidism be prevented?
If you have been thinking about how to prevent Hyperthyroidism then it can be done by keeping some simple measures in mind. Some of these have been mentioned below for your understanding and consideration:
- Eating a good and healthy diet with an increased focus on calcium and sodium intake as these are essential minerals to keep hyperthyroidism at bay.
- Work with your doctor to chart out a good workout plan
- Include nutritional supplements in your daily life
- Take Vitamin D and calcium supplements to increase the health of your bones and make them strong again.
Risk factors of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism signs and symptoms can be higher in people who are more prone to developing this condition. The risk factors for developing this condition can include:
- Sex – Females are more likely to develop this condition than males. This could be due to hormonal reasons.
- Pregnancy – Pregnancy can stimulate the development of this condition in many people, again, due to hormones. This can cause some complications for the parents and the fetus
- Age – After the age of 60 years, an individual is at a higher risk for hyperthyroidism.
- Genetics – Any person in the family, if diagnosed with the condition, leaves a genetic predisposition to others in the family
- Exposure to iodine – Too much iodine from certain foods or medication can send the thyroid into overdrive.
- Comorbidities – Any person with Type 1 diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, anemia, etc are considered more at risk of developing such conditions.
- Lifestyle – Having a balanced lifestyle with an ample amount of good diet and exercise can help to prevent the onset of this condition.
- Substance abuse – People who smoked cigarettes regularly were also more susceptible to the development of abnormal levels of thyroid.
What are the complications of Hyperthyroidism
If left untreated, this condition can come with many different complications that can cause other issues as well:
- Thyroid storm – This is a rare condition in which the body goes into overdrive due to too many thyroid hormones being present in the system. This can be potentially life threatening as the symptoms include rapid heart rate, high BP, fever, etc.
- Complications in pregnancy – This can include people with existing problems in their thyroid levels or even people who develop the condition during pregnancy. High levels of thyroid hormones can lead to harming the mother and the fetus as well. The risks can include miscarriage or premature birth.
- Osteoporosis – Hyperthyroidism can cause the bones to become weak and brittle which can lead to this condition. Vitamin D and calcium supplements would help with the improvement of bone health. Even an adequate physical workout and exercise can help with this
- Cancer – High levels of untreated thyroid can cause thyroid cancer.
- It can also lead to atrial fibrillation which is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke or congestive heart failure.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in females?
The hyperthyroidism symptoms in females can be unintentional weight loss, rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, palpitations, increased appetite, nervousness, anxiety, hair fall, etc.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in males?
In males, some of the symptoms like weight loss, increased appetite, etc can be common. Some other symptoms that they may experience could be anxiety, irritability, mood changes, difficulty sleeping, feeling hot and sweaty, etc
Why is hyperthyroidism more common in females?
This condition is more common in females due to the hormonal changes that a female body goes through. In general, the thyroid is an endocrine-related condition related to hormonal fluctuations that can be heightened in females.
How do I check my thyroid at home?
You can check your thyroid at home using a physical test. Use a handheld mirror and focus on the lower front area of the neck above the collarbone, below the voice box. Tilt your head back and drink lots of water while tilting your head back. Swallow the water, when you do so, take a look at the neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions in the area. In case there are bulges, you can see you doctor to get tested more officially.