What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is a condition that develops when the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones help control body temperature, heart rate, growth, and how you gain or lose weight.
What causes hyperthyroidism?
- Autoimmune diseases: A problem with the immune system may make your thyroid gland produce too much thyroid hormone. Grave's disease is an example of an autoimmune disease that increases thyroid hormone.
- Family history: Your risk is greater if a family member has thyroid disease or an autoimmune disease
- Medicines: Certain medicines can cause hyperthyroidism. Ask your caregiver if any of the medications you are taking can cause hyperthyroidism.
- Infections: Infection near the thyroid gland may damage the gland.
- Thyroid problems: An enlarged or swollen thyroid, lumps caused by infections, or thyroid cancer can affect how your thyroid works.
- High iodine levels: The thyroid gland uses iodine to create thyroid hormone. The thyroid can produce too much thyroid hormone if your iodine levels are high.
What are the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
The signs and symptoms may develop slowly, sometimes over several years:
- Weight loss, increased appetite, diarrhea, or constipation
- Increased sweating, and heat intolerance
- Nervous, restless, tremors, and difficulty sleeping
- Fast heart rate and fast breathing, even at rest
- Painful lump in your neck or bulging eyes
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Decreased or absent monthly periods
What is a thyroid storm?
Thyroid storm happens if your thyroid hormone levels get too high. Your temperature may go very high, your heart may beat very fast, and you may have problems thinking. You may have increased sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. You may have seizures, or go into a coma and die if you do not get medical care quickly. Thyroid storm may happen if you have hyperthyroidism and get an infection or stop taking your thyroid medicine. Injuries, burns, and certain medicines may also cause a thyroid storm.
How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He will ask what medicines you take. He will ask about your medical history and if anyone in your family has thyroid disease. You will have blood tests to check your thyroid hormone level.
How is hyperthyroidism treated?
Treatment will depend on your health, age, and the size of your thyroid gland.
- Antithyroid medicine: These medicines act on the thyroid to decrease thyroid hormone levels. They may also decrease and prevent the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
- Radioactive iodine: A radioactive form of iodine is given to damage or kill some thyroid gland cells. This may decrease the amount of thyroid hormone produced. Tell your caregiver if you know or think you are pregnant This medicine can be harmful to an unborn baby.
- Surgery: Some people with hyperthyroidism may need surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. By reducing the size of your thyroid gland, the amount of thyroid hormone produced will also decrease.
What are the risks of hyperthyroidism?
- Medicine to treat hyperthyroid may cause itching and redness of skin, fever, sore throat, and joint pain. The medicine may also harm your liver and cause yellowing of your skin. Medicines or surgery may damage thyroid gland and cause hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone). This may make you gain weight, feel very weak, and slow down your thinking. During surgery you may bleed more than usual or get an infection. Nerves in your thyroid gland may get nicked or cut and give you a hoarse voice. Even after successful treatment and surgery, your signs and symptoms may remain or return.
- Hyperthyroidism can affect a pregnancy. Tell your caregiver if you know or think you are pregnant. If left untreated, your signs and symptoms may get worse. Your eyes may continue to bulge out and affect your eyesight. You may get very thin and weak, have problems thinking, and go into a coma. Your heart may stop beating completely. You may also have a life-threatening thyroid storm.
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You have a fever.
- You feel nervous and restless.
- You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
- You run out of thyroid medicine or stopped taking it.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate help?
Seek help immediately or call 911 if:
- You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.
- Your heart is beating very fast and you are restless.
- You faint or have a seizure.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.