Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control metabolism. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone.

  • Causes

    Hyperthyroidism may be caused by:

    • Graves' disease—an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that attack cells of the thyroid gland
    • Thyroid nodules:

      • Toxic uninodular goiter—a single area/nodule in the thyroid gland is overactive
      • Toxic multinodular goiter—multiple nodules in the thyroid gland which overproduce thyroid hormone
    • Thyroiditis—inflammation of the thyroid that may later lead to hypothyroidism
    • Taking too much thyroid hormone—very rarely from meat sources contaminated by animal thyroid glands

  • Definition

    The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control metabolism. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone.

    The Thyroid Gland
    IMAGE
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Tests may include:

    • Blood tests—to measure level of thyroid hormones and look for thyroid antibodies
    • Radioactive iodine uptake test—to measure how much iodine the thyroid gland absorbs over the course of several hours

  • Prevention

    There are no current guidelines to prevent hyperthyroidism.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of having hyperthyroidism include:

    • Pregnancy—postpartum thyroiditis (hyperthyroidism followed by hypothyroidism)
    • Family history of Graves' disease
    • Certain viral infections
    • Smoking

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms come on slowly. As the thyroid becomes more overactive, symptoms may appear.

    Hyperthyroidism may cause:

    • Heart palpitations—more common in people over 50 years old
    • Rapid or irregular pulse
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fatigue
    • Heat intolerance
    • Itchiness
    • Nervousness, restlessness, or irritibility
    • Insomnia
    • Goiter—enlarged thyroid gland
    • Increased number of bowel movements/diarrhea
    • Irregular or no menstrual periods
    • Unexplained weight loss despite an increased appetite
    • Increased sweating
    • Tremors
    • Double vision
    • Lumpy, red thickening of the skin in front of the shins

  • Treatment

    Treatment will depend what is causing the hyperthyroidism. It will also be adjusted if you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for you.

    Options include: