Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. Since the thyroid gland controls the body's organic processes, too much thyroid hormone can drastically affect the metabolic functions.
What are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?
Patients with mild cases of hyperthyroidism usually do not exhibit symptoms of the disease. However, the symptoms become more evident as the level of hyperthyroidism elevates.
The common indications of this condition include:
- weight loss
- fine shaking
- excessive sweating
- increased heart rate
- elevated upper eyelids
- enlarged thyroid gland
- nervousness or agitation
- irregular menstrual flow
- puffiness around the eyes
- increased bowel movements
Irregular heart rhythms and heart failure may occur in older patients. In serious cases, patients who have not undergone treatment for hyperthyroidism may experience a "thyroid storm" – a condition that involves fever, hypertension, and heart failure.
What are the causes?
There are several possible causes of hyperthyroidism.
- Grave's Disease
Grave's Disease, caused by an excessive activity in the thyroid gland, is considered to be the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. This disease disturbs the ability of the pituitary gland to control the functions of the thyroid through TSH.
- functioning adenoma and toxic multinodular goiter
Other causes of hyperthyroidism are functioning adenoma and toxic multinodular goiter. These conditions are manifested when lumps, which naturally occur in the thyroid gland as a person gets older, produce their own thyroid hormones autonomously. These lumps are referred to as functioning nodules and may be detected through a thyroid scan.
- viral infection
A viral infection is one of the probable causes of thyroiditis or the inflammation of the thyroid. Because lymphocytes are produced to counteract the effect of the illness, thyroid hormones tend to leak out of the inflamed thyroid gland. This disorder can also be detected through a thyroid scan.
- abnormal production of TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone
An irregular production of TSH may be due to a tumor in the pituitary gland. If THS is produced excessively, then the levels of thyroid hormone produced will also be elevated. This condition is generally associated with irregularities in the pituitary gland and is very rare.
- Thyroiditis, inflammation of the thyroid, can also cause hyperthyroidism.
- Excessive intake of thyroid hormones and iodine can also cause hyperthyroidism.
How is it Diagnosed?
Whether the condition is at its early or advanced stages, a blood test is done to substantiate the diagnosis. When a person is suffering from hyperthyroidism, the blood shows high levels of thyroid hormones.
The blood's THS level is the main indicator for detecting hyperthyroidism. The pituitary gland, which is located in the brain, regulates the thyroid and produces THS. THS is what causes the thyroid to release thyroid hormones.
What are the Treatments?
There are several ways to treat hyperthyroidism.
Radioisotope Therapy is the most common treatment that doctors prefer to administer. This is where patients are orally given radioactive iodine to destroy part of the thyroid gland without causing harm to the other parts of the body.
Sometimes, patients with mild symptoms are given antithyroid medication, which do not cause damage to the thyroid gland. This treatment, however, is not always effective. Radioactive iodine may be prescribed if the antithyroid medicine fails to work.
If a patient wants relief from the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, he/she may be given beta-blockers. These pills only work to alleviate the symptoms and do not provide long-term cure. Doctors often give beta-blockers to patients while determining the best treatment to give.
In the past, the most common way to treat hyperthyroidism was surgery. In this procedure, part of the thyroid gland (the tissue that produces excessive thyroid hormone) is removed. Except for rare cases, such as when the patients cannot tolerate hyperthyroidism medication, surgery is usually not necessary.