What is Hyperthyroidism?

The over production of hormones due to overactive thyroid tissue is called hyperthyroidism. Because of this, hyperthyroidism is also known as a condition of having an overactive thyroid. When a person is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, there are excess amounts of the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4 produced in the body. With the excess levels of these hormones that control almost all the functions in the body, the pace of all these processes tend to speed up. This is why the key aspects of the metabolism such as calorie burning, body temperature and body weight are affected.

Symptoms

There are quite a number of symptoms that a patient will feel or experience because of hyperthyroidism. The first one is an abnormal weight loss and this may happen despite the good appetite present in a patient. Another symptom which is associated to hyperthyroidism and related to the abnormal weight loss is having more frequent bowel movements but not necessarily having diarrhea. A patient may also experience a difficulty in sleeping or may have insomnia. In women, there might be a significant change in the heaviness if their menstrual flow and may find that their periods occur less frequent. In some patients, goiter may be diagnosed and may be considered a symptom for hyperthyroidism. Goiter is a condition where the thyroid gland swells in order to get more iodine from the blood and produce the needed thyroid hormones for the body. Other hyperthyroidism symptoms include nervousness, irritability, fatigue, muscle weakness, palpitation, heat intolerance, trembling hands, dry hair, hair loss and breast development in men.

Causes

Graves’ Disease– This is the most-common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease where the the body’s own immune system attacks or acts against its own tissues and cells. When a person is diagnosed with such condition, an antibody produced by the immune system, called the thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin or TSI mimics the thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH which results to excess production of thyroid hormones. The TSI attach to particular activating sites in the thyroid gland which causes it to produce hormones.

When a patient has Graves’ disease, he or she may experience eye problems. These eye problems include eye bulging, severe inflammation, blurred vision and even double vision. The eye’s involvement in Grave’s disease along with the thyroid are found to be on a parallel track. This is why when the hyperthyroidism is treated and controlled, the eye problems are also resolved. A few facts about Graves’ disease include the ratio of 8:1, where there are 8 women diagnosed with this disease for every man that has it. It is also more common in the ages ranging from 30-40 years old and is known to run in families.

Thyroid Nodules– The thyroid nodules or adenomas are lumps found in the thyroid. They are common but not necessarily cancerous or malignant. The presence of a nodule may cause the thyroid to be overactive and result to excess levels of hormones. When a thyroid lump is overactive, it is called a toxic adenoma. On the other hand, if there are more or multiple overactive nodules, the condition is referred to as toxic multinodular goiter.

Thyroiditis– The inflammation of the thyroid is called thyroiditis and this is believed to be caused by a virus. However, it is important to know that the mere inflammation of the thyroid does not result to over production of thyroid hormones. What the Thyroiditis condition does is it causes the thyroid hormones that are stored to leak out. This then increases the thyroid hormone levels in the blood.

There are three types of thyroiditis and the first type if called sub-acute thryoiditis. This type is said to involve a painful inflammation along with the enlargement of the thryoid. There are no concrete answers on what causes this type of thyroiditis. It has been said that the infection might be caused by a virus or bacteria. However, people who are diagnosed with subacute thyroiditis may heal in just a few month.

The second type is called postpartum thyroiditis and is known to be painless. Studies have shown that women who given birth just after a few months may develop postpartum thyroiditis. It is said that this type of thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition which is likely to result to hyperthyroidism which lasts for 1-2 months. Aside from this, women who have already experience postpartum thyroiditis are likely to experience it again in future pregnancies.

The third type is referred to as the silent thyroiditis. The name silent was coined since this type of thyroiditis is painless, just like postpartum thyroiditis. In simple terms, there is the enlargement of the thyroid sans the pain. However, just like the postpartum type, it is also an autoimmune condition. In some cases, it can develop into permanent hypothyroidism.

Other causes include iodine ingestion and the over medication with thyroid hormones. In iodine ingestion, the presence of iodine makes it possible for the thyroid to produce the thyroid hormones. However, some people who are ingesting large amounts of iodine may lead to overproduction of thyroid hormones. These significant iodine amounts may come from medications. Examples of these medications include amiodarone, which is used for heart-problem-treatments, come cough syrups and other supplements which have seaweed components.

Treatment

Since the overproduction of thyroid hormones is affecting the pace of important metabolic aspects in the body, it is important to have hyperthyroidism treated. One way of treating this condition is through the use of antithyroid drugs otherwise known as thyrostatics. These drugs function by inhibiting the production of thyroid hormones. This is done as a result of the constrain that thyrostatics has on thyroglobulin iodination by thyroperoxidase. This then forms tetra-iodothyronine or T4. Outside the thyroid gland, the propylthiouracil prevents the conversion of T4 to the active form of T3. Thyrostatics are expected to work after a few weeks since the thyroid tissues are known to have a significant thyroid hormone reserve.

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The use of beta blockers as part of the medication is also done. Beta blockers are prescribed in order to reduce the symptoms while waiting for the treatments to take effect. Beta blockers are known to directly relieve hyperthyroidism symptoms such as nervousness, palpitation and tremors. The beta blockers work by blocking the effects of the thyroid hormone in the body. However, these do not constrain nor stop the production of thyroid hormones.

Another treatment used for hyperthyroidism is the radioiodine therapy or radioactive ioding-131. It is known to be the usual and reliable treatment for hyperthyroidism. The thyroid cells are known to be the only cells in the body to absorb iodine. In radioiodine therapy, the thyroid adsorbs or collects the radioactive iodine in the same way. The radioactive iodine will then destroy the thyroid gland cells gradually while leaving the other body tissues unaffected. Most of the time, a series of radioiodine therapy is done in order to help the patient’s thyroid hormone production go back to normal levels. However, pregnant women are not allowed to undergo such treatment since the radioactive iodine might affect the fetus’ thyroid. It is also not advisable for breast-feeding mothers since it can be passed from mother to child through the breast milk.

The last type and the last resort for treating hyperthyroidism is surgery. The surgery is referred to as the thyroidectomy, where in a part or the whole of the thyroid is surgically removed. The thyroidectomy is not advised nor done widely since in most cases, hyperthyroidism is cured through the radioiodine treatment. Another reason why it is not done always is that the thyroidectomy has a high risk of removing the parathyroid glands as well. It also increases the risk of cutting the recurrent laryngeal nerve which is responsible for the easeness of swallowing. However, not all patients, especially those who have Graves’ disease are tolerant to thyroid medication. Some patients are even allergic to iodine. There are also patients who refuse the radioiodine treatment and choose thyroidectomy to treat their hyperthyroidism. Some doctors also recommend to have the thyroid surgery done in order to worsen the patient’s symptoms.

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