Hyperthyroidism: What is it, its symptoms, what causes it and how to cure it.
Hyperthyroidism is a disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. In this case, your body’s metabolism may accelerate, resulting in weight loss beyond your control and rapid or irregular heartbeat. There are various treatments for hyperthyroidism. Anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine, which slow down the production of thyroid hormones, may be used. Sometimes, within the scope of treatment, surgery is performed by removing all or part of the thyroid gland.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck. This gland is responsible for producing tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), two main hormones that control cells’ energy use. Your metabolism is also regulated through the release of T4 and T3 hormones.
Hyperthyroidism is the result of the thyroid gland producing too much T4, T3, or both. By diagnosing and treating this disorder of an overactive thyroid gland, symptoms can be relieved and complications can be prevented.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
If T4, T3, or both are present in excess in the blood, metabolic rate increases. This condition is defined as a hypermetabolic state. When you are in a hypermetabolic state, you are likely to experience elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, and hand tremors. You may also sweat profusely and have a low tolerance for heat. Hyperthyroidism can also lead to increasingly frequent bowel movements, weight loss, and menstrual irregularities in women.
In addition, the thyroid gland may turn into a goiter, which may be symmetrical or unilateral. Your eyes may widen outward and appear prominent. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism are as follows:
- Irritability, restlessness and decreased concentration
- Palpitations, palpitations
- difficulty falling asleep
- Hair thinning and brittleness and hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting in the stomach
- Breast development in male individuals
If you show the following symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately and get emergency treatment:
- shortness of breath
- Loss of consciousness
- Fast and irregular heartbeat
What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
Some conditions predispose to the development of hyperthyroidism. For example, Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease, is one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism. In this disease, antibodies stimulate the thyroid to secrete too much hormone. Graves’ disease is more common in women than in men, and there is some information suggesting that it is a genetic disease. If there are members of your family with Graves’ disease, your doctor should be aware of this situation.
Other causes of hyperthyroidism are as follows:
- excess iodine
- Presence of thyroiditis or inflammation of the thyroid, which causes T4 and T3 to leak from the gland
- Having a tumor in the ovary or testicle
- Benign tumors in the thyroid or pituitary gland
- Large amounts of tetraiodothyronine taken through diet or medications
What are the symptoms that occur with hyperthyroidism?
- Heart conditions: One of the most serious complications of hyperthyroidism are heart-related problems. These problems include rapid heartbeat, a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, which increases the risk of stroke, and congestive heart failure, in which the heart cannot circulate enough to meet the body’s needs.
- Bones that break easily: Left untreated and neglected, hyperthyroidism can lead to weak and brittle bones called osteoporosis. The strength of bones is related to the amount of calcium and other minerals they contain. Too much thyroid hormone interferes with the incorporation of calcium into the bones.
- Eye problems: Graves’ patients experience problems such as red or swollen eyes, sensitivity to light, and blurred or double vision. Untreated serious eye problems can lead to vision loss.
- Skin problems: In rare cases, Graves’ dermopathy occurs in people with Graves’ disease. This condition affects the skin, causing redness and swelling, usually on the shins and feet.
- Thyrotoxic crisis: Hyperthyroidism also carries the risk of thyrotoxic crisis. Symptoms may intensify suddenly. Fever and rapid pulse may occur. In case of thyrotoxic crisis, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
How to Diagnose Hyperthyroidism?
When diagnosing hyperthyroidism, medical history and physical examination are first considered. During the examination, tremors, overactive reflexes, changes in the eye, and warm, moist skin are carefully analyzed. In addition, the thyroid gland is monitored while swallowing and its size, fluctuating movements or sensitivity are checked. Pulse rate and pattern are also important for diagnosing hyperthyroidism.
The blood test results are then examined. Blood tests measuring thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) confirm the diagnosis. High thyroxine and low TSH levels indicate an overactive thyroid. The amount of TSH is of great importance, because it is this hormone that signals the thyroid gland to produce more thyroxine.
Thyroid blood tests may show false results when using biotin, a B vitamin supplement that can also be found in multivitamins. If you are using biotin or a multivitamin containing biotin, it is recommended that you not forget to inform your doctor. If blood tests show hyperthyroidism, your doctor may order some tests to find out why your thyroid is overactive. These tests are as follows:
- Radioiodine uptake test: In this test, a small amount of radioactive iodine (radioiodine) is taken orally to see how much it will accumulate in the thyroid gland. How much iodine the thyroid has absorbed is checked after 4, 6 or 24 hours. A high radioiodine intake means that the thyroid gland is producing too much thyroxine. Most likely, this is caused by either Graves’ disease or hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules.
- Thyroid scintigraphy: In this test, a radioactive isotope is injected into a vein on the inside of the elbow or sometimes in the hand. Then, an image of the thyroid gland is obtained on a computer screen through a special camera system. This test determines how iodine is collected in the thyroid gland.
- Thyroid ultrasound: In this test, images of the thyroid are obtained using high-frequency sound waves. Ultrasound is better at detecting thyroid nodules than other tests and does not carry risks such as radiation exposure.
How to Treat Hyperthyroidism?
If you have hyperthyroidism, the most appropriate treatment plan will be created for you depending on your age, physical condition, another underlying medical cause of hyperthyroidism, personal preference and the severity of the disease.
- Radioactive iodine: Radioactive iodine absorbed by the thyroid gland is taken orally and functions by causing the gland to shrink. With this treatment, symptoms usually disappear within a few months.
- Anti-thyroid medications: These medications work to prevent the thyroid gland from producing excessive amounts of hormones. Symptoms usually improve within a few weeks or months. However, treatment with antithyroid medications continues for at least a year and often longer. However, some patients may experience a recurrence of the disease. Sometimes medications can cause serious liver damage. Allergy to these drugs is rare and manifests itself with skin rashes, hives, fever or joint pain. Caution should also be exercised as they may make the patient more susceptible to infection.
- Beta blockers: These medications often relieve symptoms that are common in hyperthyroidism, such as tremors and increased heart rate. Therefore, the doctor may prescribe them to feel better until thyroid levels return to normal. These medications are generally not recommended for asthma patients, and side effects can include fatigue and sexual dysfunction.
- Surgical method: If anti-thyroid medications cannot be tolerated or the disease recurs frequently, in some cases, hyperthyroidism developing due to nodules or in cases deemed appropriate by the physician, thyroid surgery is performed as a solution. In this procedure, the doctor removes most of the thyroid gland. Possible risks during this surgery are damage to the vocal cords and the parathyroid glands, which control the calcium level in the blood. In addition, lifelong treatment with levothyroxine (L-thyroxine) is needed to provide the body with normal levels of thyroid hormone.
As a result of the treatments, hyperthyroidism symptoms decrease and you begin to feel much better. However, your doctor recommends that you pay attention to your iodine intake in your diet, as it may cause or worsen hyperthyroidism. If you show symptoms of hyperthyroidism, do not forget to see your doctor.