Hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid, is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, leading to various symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, anxiety and weight loss.
In this blog post, we will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for this common but often misunderstood endocrine disorder.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid, is a condition where the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
This makes your metabolism to speed-up, as too much thyroid hormone could lead to weight loss, among other symptoms.
These hormones play an important function in regulating your body’s metabolism, energy production and growth & development.
When produced in excess, these hormones can cause various symptoms such as weight loss and increased appetite.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
In a whirlwind of confusing symptoms, it’s crucial to recognise the early signs of hyperthyroidism and seek medical help immediately to restore balance in your body.
A wide range of symptoms can be associated with hyperthyroidism, such as:
The causes of hyperthyroidism are varied, and understanding them is key to addressing this endocrine disorder.
From autoimmune diseases to thyroid nodules, these underlying factors can trigger an overproduction of your thyroid hormones, resulting in a range of symptoms and health complications.
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, accounting for around 85% of cases.
It is an autoimmune disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your thyroid gland, causing it to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones.
Thyroid nodules are lumps or growths on your thyroid gland that can cause hyperthyroidism if they produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones.
These nodules can either be benign or malignant (cancerous).
Thyroiditis is an inflammation of your thyroid gland that can cause temporary hyperthyroidism.
Several types of thyroiditis exist, including subacute, silent and postpartum thyroiditis.
Excessive Iodine Intake
Iodine is an essential mineral required for the production of your thyroid hormones.
However, consuming too much iodine, either through diet or medication, can cause overactive thyroid.
Some medications, such as amiodarone, interferon-alpha and lithium, can cause overactive thyroid as a side effect.
A proper diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is an important step in managing this endocrine disorder.
Through a combination of physical examination, blood tests and imaging studies, your doctor can accurately identify the presence of excessive thyroid hormone production and initiate appropriate treatment.
Physical Examination and Medical History
During the initial evaluation, your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a physical examination, focusing on your thyroid gland and any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Blood tests (thyroid function testing) are crucial in diagnosing hyperthyroidism.
They measure levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), T4 and T3 in your blood.
Low TSH levels combined with high T4 and/or T3 levels indicate overactive thyroid.
In fewer cases, imaging studies like thyroid ultrasound or radioactive iodine uptake tests may be performed to evaluate the thyroid gland’s structure and function.
Treatment options for your hyperthyroidism are tailored to address the underlying cause and alleviate symptoms.
With a range of therapies, including medications, radioactive iodine and surgery, you can effectively regain control of your thyroid function and restore the lost balance in your body.
Beta-blockers, such as propranolol, atenolol or metoprolol, are used to manage the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, including rapid heart rate, anxiety and tremors.
They do not directly affect thyroid hormone levels but can provide symptomatic relief, while other treatments take effect.
Radioactive iodine therapy involves the oral administration of radioactive iodine (I-131) to shrink your thyroid gland and reduce your hormone production.
This treatment is often used for patients with Graves’ disease, toxic multinodular goiter or solitary toxic nodules.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. This procedure is known as thyroidectomy.
Surgery considered when other treatments are either ineffective or contraindicated or in cases of large goiters, suspicious nodules or pregnancy.
By removing part or all of your thyroid gland, the overproduction of your thyroid hormones can be controlled, resolving the condition.
Monitoring and Long-Term Management
After receiving treatment, you may require ongoing monitoring and treatment to manage your hormone levels and address any underlying conditions.
This may include regular blood tests, follow-up appointments with your doctor, and, in some instances, thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
How to Live with Hyperthyroidism?
Managing hyperthyroidism could be challenging, but with proper treatment and monitoring, you can restore your hormonal balance.
Here are some tips that can help you with managing your rather difficult condition.
Foods to Manage Hyperthyroidism
When it comes to managing your hyperthyroidism, the food you eat can make an enormous difference to your health.
Embracing a balanced and nutritious diet not only helps alleviate symptoms but also aids your healthy lifestyle.
Here are some wholesome foods to include in your meals as you navigate life with hyperthyroidism:
Hyperthyroidism is a complex endocrine disorder with various causes, symptoms and treatment options.
By understanding the condition and working closely with your doctor, you can effectively manage your symptoms and maintain a high quality of life.
Stay informed, take an active role in your treatment plan and reach out for medical support when needed to navigate the challenges of living with hyperthyroidism.
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