Hyperthyroidism is a medical condition where the thyroid glands (a butterfly shaped gland situated in the front region of your neck) start producing excessive hormones. The thyroid gland facilitates metabolism by the release of two types of hormones called triiodothyronine (T3) and tetraiodothyronine (T4). Treating overactive thyroid can also treat hyperthyroidism.
Causes of hyperthyroidism:
- Some medical conditions contribute to hyperthyroidism such as Graves’ disease which is an autoimmune disease that stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete excessive hormones. This is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.
- It can also be caused due to excessive iodine in the body, thyroiditis (inflammation in the thyroid glands), cysts or tumors of the testes (male) or ovaries (female) benign tumors of the pituitary gland or thyroid, consumption of excessive amounts of a hormone called tetraiodothyronine taken through diet supplements.
- In severe cases, the thyroid gland can start to swell into a goiter which can be one-sided or symmetrical. Some symptoms which require immediate medical attention include irregular & fast heart rate, loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and dizziness. Sometimes, hyperthyroidism can also cause artial fibrillation which can lead to congestive heart failure and strokes.
How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
A physical exam and a medical history is your first step in diagnosing hyperthyroidism. The specialist can also diagnose it by checking common signs like enlarged thyroid glands, protruding eyes, higher than normal blood pressure, rapid pulse and immense weight loss. Other tests such as cholesterol tests, thyroid stimulating hormone level test (the test results should be lower if the thyroid levels are high or normal, a very low test can be a sure sign of hyperthyroidism), Triglyceride test (low triglycerides can be a sign of high metabolic rates), thyroid uptake and scan, ultrasound (measures the entire size of the thyroid gland and masses within the glands), MRI and CT scans.
Hyperthyroidism can be medically treated by the following ways:
- Medications- Medicines such as methimazole are prescribed to cure hyperthyroidism. This medicine prevents the thyroid glands from making excessive hormones.
- Radioactive iodine- This destroys the cells that produce thyroid hormones. Side effects of radioactive iodine therapy include change in taste, sore throat, dry eyes and dry mouth. The radiations might spread to others so proper precautions should be taken for a few days.
- Surgery- This is considered in severe cases, all or just a section of your thyroid gland is surgically removed and hormone supplements need to be taken to bring the thyroid levels back to normal. This treatment is affective to generally a lot of people.