Having an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much hormones. In terms of everything you need to know about hyperthyroidism, it is important to first understand the thyroid itself. Essentially, it is a gland located at the neck's front where hormones are produced that affect almost every element of your body, particularly your body temperature, your heart rate, and your metabolism. If the gland produces too much hormones, this could lead to uncomfortable and potentially dangerous problems. Hence, it must be treated properly.
Anyone can have an overactive thyroid. However, it is around 10 times more likely to be diagnosed in women. Usually, people develop the condition when they are between 20 and 40 years old. Let us take a look what is considered to be everything you need to know about hyperthyroidism.
1. Hyperthyroidism Symptoms
When you have an overactive thyroid, you are likely to experience:
Irritability, anxiety, and nervousness
Difficult sleeping, sometimes even full insomnia
Sensitivity to heat
Persistent weakness, tiredness, and fatigue
Goiter, whereby the neck swells due to the thyroid gland becoming larger
Palpitations, whereby the heart beat is unusually fast and/or irregular
Trembling and twitching
2. Hyperthyroidism Causes
Hyperthyroidism is a reasonably well-understood medical condition. Usually, the cause of the disorder can also be pinpointed. Common causes include:
– Graves' disease, which is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid, believing it to be a foreign invader
– Nodules or lumps on the thyroid gland, leading to increased thyroid tissue and therefore increased activity of the gland itself.
– Medications, including amiodarone, which is prescribed for people with arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
Around 80% of cases of hyperthyroidism are caused by Graves' disease.
3. Hyperthyroidism Treatment
In most cases, treatment for hyperthyroidism is available. However, it is quite common for people to have to try numerous forms of treatment at different dosages and regularities, before they find something that works. Common treatments include:
– Medication designed to slow down the thyroid gland so that it no longer produces as much hormones as before
– Radio-iodine treatment, whereby the thyroid gland is damaged through radiation so that it is no longer able to produce hormones. This treatment means the patient needs to be isolated from babies and infants for several weeks.
– Surgery, whereby some of the thyroid gland, or even all of it, is removed, thereby stopping the production of thyroid hormones altogether.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each form of treatment. Usually, you will be referred to a hormone specialist (endocrinologist) who will discuss these pros and cons with you, helping you to come to a decision.
4. Hyperthyroidism Complications
If an overactive thyroid is left untreated, or if patients struggle to properly control it, then other problems can develop. These include:
– Problems of the eyes, including bulging eyes, double vision, and eye irritation
– Complications in pregnancy, including miscarriage, premature birth, and pre-eclampsia
– A thyroid storm, whereby symptoms suddenly flare up. This is a life-threatening condition.
While we believe that everything you need to know about hyperthyroidism are already included in this article, you may still want to consult with your physician should you suspect that you have hyperthyroidism.