Hyperthyroidism is a disorder that occurs due to the surplus release of the thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland – a small, butterfly-shaped organ in the lower front of your neck. Your brain, in turn, regulates the thyroid function via two main organs known as pituitary and hypothalamus.
The thyroid hormone plays a role in all the primary functions of your body, including energy regulation, digestion, lung & heart functions, cell division and temperature modulation. Hence, a disturbance in its function is likely to disrupt your health a great deal.
The 5 signs of hyperthyroidism
Symptoms of excess thyroid hormone may vary with everyone; certain commonalities exist in most individuals.
There is unexplained weight loss despite increased or normal appetite with increased thirst. There is also intolerance towards heat with excessive perspiration.
Muscular fatigue, hand tremors with nervousness, anxiety, mood swings and troubled sleep patterns.
Rapid & irregular heartbeat with high blood pressure and palpitations
Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing with a raised respiratory rate
There might be an increase in the frequency of bowel movement with nausea, vomiting and pain in the abdomen.
What can be the probable causes of hyperthyroidism?
- Graves’ Disease: It is an autoimmune disorder that hyperactivates the thyroid gland leading to an overproduction of the hormone
- Multinodular Goitre: Multiple nodules formed on the gland result in augmented activity producing higher levels of thyroid hormone.
- Thyroiditis: The excessive thyroid hormone is stored in the gland and released only when required. In thyroiditis, a disturbed immune function or viral infection causes leakage in the gland leading to an over secretion of the hormone into the bloodstream.
- Medicinal Intake: An overdosage of the thyroid medications may also lead to an upsurge in the glandular activity.
What are the possible complications?
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism may go undiagnosed due to the presence of generalized symptoms that can be associated with multiple diseases. Appropriate medications prevent complications. However few complications that may occur are:
- Heart complications: Severe heart-related disorders such as stroke and heart failure.
- Eye disorders: Eye complaints such as irritation in the eyes, exophthalmos (bulging of the eyes) or double vision.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, it may lead to pre-eclampsia (an increase in blood pressure), miscarriage or premature birth.
- Osteoporosis: Excess thyroid hormone extracts calcium and phosphorus from the bones, excretes it through urine leading to weaker bones, ultimately resulting in conditions such as osteoporosis.
- Thyroid Storm: It is a rare condition but when it occurs, it is an acute medical emergency, characterized by high fever, restlessness, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, drowsiness or even loss of consciousness.
Treatment options for hyperthyroidism
The treatment advised is based on multiple factors such as the cause of thyroid dysfunction, severity of the disease, age and any associated illnesses.
- Medicines: Antithyroid drugs hinder the gland’s ability to make thyroid hormone. Though these drugs are not known to cause permanent damage, they may be associated with minor side effects such as skin rash & fever and sometimes, even severe side effects such as a decrease in white blood cell count and liver damage.
- Radioactive Iodine: Advisable in those over 60 years of age and the ones with Graves’ disease. The capsules containing radioactive iodine are consumed orally which destroy the thyroid cells responsible for excessive secretion, thus bringing back the thyroid levels to normal.
- Surgery: The surgical removal of a part or more of a thyroid gland is decided only when there is no response to previous interventions, or when there are intolerable side effects. This may sometimes lead to hypothyroidism which is treated with appropriate medication.
Which precautions can save you from hyperthyroidism?
- Firstly, be on the lookout for any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. Always remember that any symptoms persisting after a preliminary treatment is something requiring more attention.
- If you have a family history of thyroid or hormonal disorders, it is advisable to opt for regular tests under the supervision of your family physician.
- Women are considered to be more at risk of hyperthyroidism irrespective of their age.
- Individuals with medical conditions like autoimmune disorders, or type 1 diabetes are at greater risk and should be proactive about their health.
- The age group between 40 – 60 are at highest risk and should monitor their thyroid levels from time to time.
FAQs of Hyperthyroidism:
- How do you feel when you have hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism will certainly disrupt your daily routine, causing symptoms like frequent bouts of breathlessness, fatigue and anxiety.
- How does hyperthyroidism affect the body?
The thyroid hormone affects every cell of the body, and hence, is capable of disrupting your health significantly. The symptoms such as weight loss, excessive sweating are likely to make you uncomfortable.
- Is hyperthyroidism a serious disease?
Hyperthyroidism is manageable with medications if treated at an early stage. Though once diagnosed, it has to be dealt with great care and diligence. Any neglect may prove fatal.
- What is the best treatment for hyperthyroidism?
The treatment with antithyroid drugs is perfectly capable of bringing back your thyroid levels to normal. However, your endocrinologist may suggest further treatment in case of non-responsiveness or presence of side effects.
- How does hyperthyroidism respond to treatment?
The duration of treatment and time taken for recovery may depend on several factors like the presence of any other illnesses, your age and the severity of the thyroid dysfunction. However, early intervention has a smooth recovery.The symptoms of excessive thyroid hormone may mimic various illnesses; hence, a strict vigilance about your health and noticing symptoms will surely save you from grave complications.