THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HYPERTHYROIDISM
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What Is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is a condition where your thyroid produces an antibody known as Thyroid-stimulating Immunoglobulin (TSI) which in turn causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced. This condition is also known as thyrotoxicosis or overactive thyroid. When too much of this hormone is produced, the metabolism speeds up resulting in your body failing to absorb important nutrients during the digestive process.
What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
The primary causes of hyperthyroidism are Graves’ Disease, hyperfunctioning, and thyroiditis.
Graves’ Disease is autoimmune in nature and tends to affect women under the age of 40. It creates antibodies that cause the thyroid to produce too much TSI.
Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules are overgrowths of normal thyroid tissue that can grow large enough to be seen or felt outside of the body. These are known as goiters. They are initially benign in nature but can become cancerous in time.
Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid that causes TSI hormones to leak. This then causes the hormones to be released in greater quantity than they should lead to hyperthyroidism.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Irritability or nervousness
- Mood swings
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Intolerance to heat
- Trouble sleeping
- Thinning of the skin
- Fine or brittle hair
- Tremors in the hands
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Unintentional weight loss
- Extensive sweating
- Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
- Irregular menstrual patterns
- Increased appetitive
Graves’ disease often involves Graves ophthalmology which can cause the eyes to bulge. Graves’ patients often experience dry eye, excessive tears, sensitivity to light, blurred vision or red or swollen eyes due to inflammation.
If hyperthyroidism goes untreated, atrial fibrillation can occur increasing the risk of stroke. It can also increase the risk of osteoporosis and heart failure. If the cause of the hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease, lack of treatment can ultimately lead to death.
Available treatment for hyperthyroidism includes:
- Radioactive iodine is the most common treatment in the United States. This treatment gradually shrinks the thyroid, and then destroys thyroid tissue. This treatment is permanent and can take as little as one dosage to eliminate hyperthyroidism. One possible side effect of this treatment is hypothyroidism.
- Surgical intervention includes the removal or all or part of the thyroid.
- Beta blockers will minimize the symptoms of hyperthyroidism but do not treat the actual condition. The patient will feel the effects of beta blockers in three to four weeks; however, the drugs need to be tapered off and not stopped all at once.
The use of antithyroid drugs is effective in the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Their side effects are minimal with the most common one being development of a rash. Radioactive iodine is the most common treatment as it does not require hospitalization. It is also the common method of diagnosing hyperthyroidism when used in very small doses followed by an uptake scan. As a treatment, it is known to destroy all or part of the thyroid. It is the drug of choice especially when thyrotoxicosis becomes cancerous.
Surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid is the most complete treatment. Drawbacks to thyroid surgery are any potential complications during anesthesia and the possibility of heavy bleeding and damage to the laryngeal nerves that attach to the vocal cords. There is also a risk that parathyroid glands will be compromised affecting the body’s production of calcium. Surgery is preferred if there are nodules, goiters, or cancer present.
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