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Hyperthyroidism: Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism. It is characterized by an overactive thyroid gland.

Your thyroid gland is a small organ shaped like a butterfly. It is located at the base of your neck, just below your esophagus, (also known as Adam’s apple).

This important organ regulates every aspect of your metabolism. It produces two main hormones, they triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones influence every cell in your body.

Some of the functions of these thyroid hormones are the regulation of body temperature, regulating the heart rate, and also the regulation of protein production.

They also maintain the healthy rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates. The thyroid gland also produces a hormone that regulates the amount of calcium in your bloodstream.

Hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormones, especially thyroxine. This accelerates your body’s metabolism beyond normal.

It also causes unintentional and unexplainable weight loss, irregular or rapid heartbeat and other problems which you will learn later in this post.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is difficult to diagnose because it mimics other conditions. It causes a wide range of discomforting signs and symptoms like:

  • Fine or brittle hair
  • Thin skin
  • Insomnia
  • Trembling and twitching
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland). It appears as swelling at the base of your neck
  • Changes in the pattern of bowel movement. There will be increased or frequent bowel movement
  • Increased sensitivity to heat and high temperatures
  • Changes in menstrual patterns and menstrual disorders
  • Increased sweating
  • Frequent urination
  • Itchiness
  • Warm skin
  • Mood swings
  • Hair thinning or patchy hair loss (known as Alopecia)
  • Low sex drive and infertility
  • Tremor, a condition in which your hands and fingers tremble
  • Irritability, anxiety, and nervousness
  • Persistent thirst
  • Hyperactivity, people with hyperthyroidism have lots of energy and find it difficult to stay still
  • The palms of the hands becomes red
  • Increased appetite which will lead to a large intake of food
  • Palpitations (this is a condition in which your heart pounds)
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Hives (a raised itchy type of rash, also known as urticaria)
  • Tachycardia (also known as rapid heartbeat). In this case, your heart beats for more than 100 beats a minutes
  • Unexplainable weight loss. Even with the high intake of food and increased appetite, you will notice that you are losing weight.
  • Loose nails
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness

You should seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Fast and irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness

Older adults might not have signs or any symptoms at all. And if they do, it would be the subtle ones which can be mistaken to be signs of aging or other conditions.

Some of these subtle conditions are increased sensitivity to heat, heat tolerance, increased fatigue (you can become so tired just by engaging in an ordinary activity), etc.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism

There are a number of conditions that can trigger hyperthyroidism. They include thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland), Grave’s disease, and Plummer’s disease).

Graves’ disease

This is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. This induces the production of excess thyroid hormones.

This condition is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It is also known as Grave’s ophthalmopathy. This protrudes your eyeballs beyond their normal protective orbits.

This happens when the tissues and muscles behind your eyes swell. This condition can improve without treatment. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Dry and swollen eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Protruding eyeballs
  • Inflammation
  • Reduced eye movement
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excessive discomfort or excessive tearing in one or both eyes

Thyroiditis

This is a condition characterized by the inflammation of your thyroid gland. This can happen after pregnancy and the reasons are not known but autoimmune conditions are suspected.

This condition can make the excess thyroid hormones that are stored in your thyroid gland to leak into the bloodstream. Some people with thyroiditis feel pains while some do not.

There are several types of thyroiditis that can cause hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, and some are:

  • Silent thyroiditis: This is called “silent” because it is painless. Even with the enlarged thyroid gland, some people do not experience pain. Some health experts believe silent thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition.
  • Postpartum thyroiditis: This type usually develops after a woman puts to bed.
  • Subacute thyroiditis: In this type of thyroiditis, the goiter is inflamed and enlarged. The cause of this type of thyroiditis is not yet known. However, it is believed to be caused by a virus or bacteria.

Excessive intake of iodine

Your thyroid gland depends on iodine to make thyroid hormones. The amount of iodine you take in will affect the amount of thyroid hormones your thyroid gland will produce.

People who take a high amount of iodine through supplements and drugs like amiodarone, a heart medicine, and cough syrup can make their thyroid gland to produce excess thyroid hormones.

Seaweed and seaweed-based supplements are also high in iodine. If you are at risk of hyperthyroidism, you have to reduce your intake of iodine through supplements and drugs.

It is not possible to have excess iodine through natural food.

Excess thyroid hormones drug

People with hypothyroidism who take thyroid medications might be taking too much. If you are on thyroid hormones or medications, you should try and see your doctor at least once a year.

He/she will check the levels of your thyroid hormones and see if there is a need to adjust your dose if the levels of your thyroid hormones are high.

Some drugs can also interact with your thyroid hormones and raise the levels of these hormones. If you are on thyroid hormones, always ask your doctor before starting new medicines to know if there are safe for you to prevent interactions.

Health Complications Caused by Untreated Thyroidism

If hyperthyroidism is not well treated, it can lead to a lot of health complications. Some of the health complications caused by hyperthyroidism are:

Thyrotoxic crisis

Hyperthyroidism increases your risk of this disease, it intensifies the symptoms suddenly this can cause high temperature, rapid pulse, and even delirium.

If this happens to you, you have to seek medical help immediately.

Heart problems

This is one of the most serious health complications caused by hyperthyroidism. You can notice a rapid heartbeat when this happens.

This leads to a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation. This condition increases your risks of stroke and congestive heart failure. In heart failure, your heart can circulate enough blood to meet your body’s demand.

Red and swollen skin

In rare cases of hyperthyroidism, people with Graves’ disease can also develop Graves’ dermopathy. This will affect the skin and cause redness and swelling.

This usually occurs on the feet and on the shins.

Eye problem

Individuals with Graves’ ophthalmopathy can develop serious eye problems. The symptoms of this condition are red and swollen eyes, bulging eyes, double vision, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light.

If it is untreated, it can become severe and lead to loss of vision.

Brittle bones

Untreated hyperthyroidism weakens the bones. This can make the bone brittle and lead to osteoporosis. Excess thyroid hormone interferes with the ability of your body to absorb calcium and incorporate it into your bones.

And the strength of your bones depends on calcium and other minerals like magnesium.

Risk Factors for Hyperthyroidism

Risk factors for hyperthyroidism are:

  • Sex: Females are more prone to hyperthyroidism than males
  • Genetics: People with a family history of thyroid problems and Grave’s diseases are more prone to hyperthyroidism.
  • A personal history of chronic diseases such as pernicious anemia, type I diabetes, and primary adrenal insufficiency can increase your risk of hyperthyroidism.

When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor for a proper diagnosis if you experience any of the following:

You have to explain the whole symptoms you feel to your doctor, leave nothing behind. This will help your doctor in the diagnosis, even though doctors have difficulty diagnosing this condition.

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are associated with a lot of other conditions. This makes diagnosis a bit difficult.

Sources/References;

  1. Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid) NIH
  2. What’s to know about hyperthyroidism Medical News
  3. Hyperthyroidism: Foods to eat and avoid Medical News
  4. Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid) Mayo Clinic

This article is for informational/educational purposes only. Healthtian does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, read more.

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