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Overview of Hyperthyroidism

When the body produces more than necessary amounts of thyroid hormone, the body suffers from hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid). The thyroid hormone is principally responsible for running the metabolic activities of the body. Therefore, an increased amount of thyroid hormone in the blood causes metabolic imbalance. A hyperthyroid patient experiences an increased amount of metabolism. This makes him feel hotter than those around him.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Graves disease: The most common cause behind hyperthyroidism is Graves disease. It is an autoimmune disease which is caused when the patient's own immune system turns against the patient's thyroid gland. During Graves disease, the patient develops an enlarged thyroid (enlarged thyroids are called goiters) which produces excess thyroid hormone.

Hyperthyroidism is also caused by a single nodule within the thyroid instead of the entire thyroid.

Thyroiditis: Hyperthyroidism is also caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland, called thyroiditis. This condition leads to the release of excess amounts of thyroid hormones that are normally stored in the gland.

Postpartum thyroiditis: Hyperthyroidism is also caused by postpartum thyroiditis which occurs after the delivery of a baby.

It is also caused by excessive intake of thyroid hormones. At times excessive doses of thyroid hormones frequently go undetected due to the lack of follow-up treatment. At times people also administer thyroid medicine in order to lose weight. These patients usually have a low uptake of radioactively-labeled iodine (radioiodine) which can be detected through a thyroid scan.

A tumor in the pituitary gland may start producing excess amounts of TSH. TSH is a thyroid stimulating hormone. Excess of TSH increases the signaling to the thyroid gland to produce more and more thyroid hormones. However, this is a rare condition.

Hyperthyroidism is also caused by an excess amount of iodine, since the thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. Certain medication like amiodarone (Cordarone), which is used for treating heart problems, contains large amounts of iodine. Intake of such medications results in thyroid function abnormalities.


Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

The various symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Anxiety, nervousness and restlessness 
  • Heat intolerance 
  • Increased sweating 
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Irregular menstrual periods in women 
  • Goiter or thyroid enlargement 
  • Palpitations and rapid heart rate 
  • Protruding eyes 
  • Excessive thirst 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Skin color changes and itching 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Uncoordinated movement 
  • Tremors 
  • Breast development in men 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Hair loss

Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism

Physical examination

The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism starts with basic physical examination. First the person needs to check the size of the thyroid gland. It may at times reveal an enlarged thyroid gland. However, this test is not absolute in nature.

Physical examination may also reveal symptoms like:
  • Tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Smooth velvety skin
  • Fine hair, and
  • Rapid heart rate

Laboratory tests

Laboratory tests that are used to determine hyperthyroidism are:

T4 test: T4 or thyroxin is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Since hyperthyroidism is the condition when the blood has excess amounts of thyroid hormones, a measure of the amount of T4 in the blood reveals whether the person is suffering from hyperthyroidism or not.

Serum TSH: Serum TSH is used to measure the amount of TSH in the blood. TSH is a thyroid stimulating hormone produced by the pituitary gland. TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce and release hormones thyroxin (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3).

T3 test: This test usually follows an abnormal TSH and T4 test. Usually, T3 testing is ordered along with thyroid antibodies in order to diagnose Graves’ disease, which is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.         

Iodine thyroid scan: This test reveals if the cause is a single nodule or the whole gland.

Apart from these common tests, hyperthyroidism also affects the test results of the following tests:

  • Cholesterol test
  • Glucose test
  • Radioactive iodine uptake test: This test is used to measure how much radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland in a given time period.
  • T3RU: This test measures the level of proteins that carry thyroid hormone in the blood.
  • Triglycerides Test
  • Vitamin B12 (in rare cases)


Diet for Hyperthyroidism

  • Plenty of food items like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, peaches, pears, rutabagas, soybeans, spinach, and turnips should be consumed. These help in suppressing the production of thyroid hormone.

  • Dairy products should be avoided. Several stimulants like coffee, tea, nicotine and soft drinks should also be avoided.


Treatment of Hyperthyroidism

Treatment of hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can be treated in four ways. However, a physician chooses the line of treatment on the basis of a number of variables like the underlying cause of hyperthyroidism, the age of the patient, the size of the thyroid gland and the presence of coexisting medical illnesses.

Alternate treatment for hyperthyroidism

Alternative treatment for hyperthyroidism

Acupuncture tries to restore and maintain health through the stimulation of specific points on the body by inserting and manipulating filiform needles to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: April 16, 2012

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