Hyperthyroidism

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormones. It refers to a state in which your thyroid hormones production is above normal level. It is also called overactive thyroid. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate the metabolism rate of your body. As a result, it can cause weight loss and irregular heart activity. It is more common in women than men. Blood tests are the only way to reliably confirm a diagnosis.

Furthermore, having too much of thyroid hormones can cause unpleasant and potentially serious problems that may need treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism can be easily confused with other disease, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Moreover signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism varies from person to person. It can also cause a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including:

  • Bulging Eyes
  • Abnormal Heart Rate
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight Loss
  • Irritability
  • Itching
  • Heat Intolerance
  • Stress
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vision Problem
  • Frequent Sweating
  • Irregular Mensuration
  • Nervousness

If you suspect your symptoms are the result of a thyroid problem, it is most important you talk with your doctor. They can order a blood test to measure the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. Because high levels of Thyroxine (T4) and low amounts of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) in blood indicates an overactive thyroid.

What causes Hyperthyroidism?

Several diseases and conditions can cause hyperthyroidism, including:

  • Graves’ Disease: It is an autoimmune disorder that cause over production of thyroid hormones in your body. In this disease, your immune system creates antibodies known as thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI). These antibodies then attach to the healthy thyroid cells and can cause your thyroid to create too much thyroid hormone. It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. (read more)
  • Thyroid Nodules: The term thyroid nodule refers to an abnormal growth of thyroid cells that forms a lump in your thyroid gland. These Nodules can become overactive and may produce excess thyroid hormones than your body needs, resulting in hyperthyroidism. Thyroid nodules are more common in older adults. (read more)
  • Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis is inflammation of your thyroid gland, which may be painful or painless. Sometimes your thyroid gland can become inflamed after pregnancy, due to an infection or an immune system problem. Further, the inflammation can cause thyroid hormone to leak out of your thyroid gland into your bloodstream. As a result, you may develop symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Types of thyroiditis that can cause hyperthyroidism include:
    1. Subacute Thyroiditis: A painful enlarged thyroid, possibly from a virus or bacteria.
    2. Postpartum Thyroiditis: It can develop after a woman gives birth.
    3. Painless/Silent Thyroiditis: Your thyroid gland may be enlarged due to an autoimmune condition (in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid).
  • To much Iodine: Excess iodine can cause temporary hyperthyroidism. Please note, iodine is a mineral that your thyroid gland uses to create thyroid hormone. Some foods and medications contain iodine and taking too much of them can cause your thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormone.

How is Hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose hyperthyroidism by several methods, including:

  • Analysis of your medical history and symptoms: Your doctor will ask about your personal and family medical history and look for symptoms including a swollen thyroid, a fast pulse, moist skin, and shaking in your hands or fingers.
  • A physical examination: If you are experiencing symptoms of hyperthyroidism, your doctor may check the following during a physical examination:
    1. Your Thyroid gland: Your doctor may gently feel your thyroid gland through the outside of your neck to check if it is enlarged, bumpy or tender.
    2. Your Hand or Fingers: Your doctor may try to detect a tremor (slight shaking) in your hands or fingers when they are extended.
    3. Your Eyes: Your doctors may check your eyes for the abnormalities such as swelling, redness, bulging and other signs of Graves’ disease.
    4. Your Skin: Your doctor may check your skin to see if it is moist (slightly damp or wet).
  • Blood tests for diagnosing hyperthyroidism: The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism can be confirmed by blood tests. Therefore, your doctor may recommend a blood test to measure the levels of thyroid hormones and related substances such as T3, T4 and TSH in your body. The test is known as a Thyroid Function Test. This test checks the levels of:

    1. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH): It is produced and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland (a pea-sized structure) which is located at the base of your brain. TSH tells the thyroid gland how much T4 and T3 to make. (read more)
    2. Triiodothyronine (T3): It is one of the main thyroid hormones, containing three atoms of iodine. (read more)
    3. Thyroxine (T4) : Another of the main thyroid hormones, containing four atoms of iodine. (read more)

    Please note, when you have hyperthyroidism, levels of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) are above normal and level of TSH is lower than normal. In other words, high levels of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) and low amount of TSH indicate hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).

    Further Blood Test: In addition to above mentioned blood tests, your doctor may also order thyroid antibody tests.

    1. Thyroid Antibody Test: This test measures the level of thyroid antibodies in your blood. Thyroid antibodies are made when your immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy cells of your thyroid gland. This is known as an autoimmune disorder. Moreover, the presence of thyroid antibodies in your blood suggests that the cause of thyroid disease is an autoimmune disorder, such as Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease. There are three major types of thyroid antibodies:

    • Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO): These antibodies can be a sign of Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease.
    • Thyroglobulin antibodies (Tg): These antibodies can also be an indication of Hashimoto disease. Most people with Hashimoto disease have raised levels of both Tg and TPO antibodies.
    • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) receptor: These antibodies can be a sign of Grave’s disease.
  • Imaging Tests for diagnosing hyperthyroidism: If your blood tests indicate hyperthyroidism, your doctor may order one of the following imaging tests to diagnose and find the cause why your thyroid is overactive.
    1. Ultrasound of thyroid: This test is most often used to look for thyroid nodules in your thyroid gland. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your thyroid gland. For an ultrasound, a technician will run a device called a transducer over your neck. Further, the transducer bounces safe and painless sound waves off your neck to make pictures of your thyroid. Ultrasound can help your doctor to detect if the nodules are more likely to be cancerous.

    2. Radioactive iodine uptake test: This test helps your doctor to find the cause of hyperthyroidism by measuring how much radioactive iodine your thyroid gland absorbs/takes up from your blood after you swallow a small, safe dose of radioactive iodine. During this test, you will sit on a chair while a technician scan your neck with a device called a gamma probe. Further, the probe measures how much radioactive iodine your thyroid absorbs from your blood. Measurements are often taken 4 to 6 hours after you swallow the radioactive iodine and again at 24 hours.

      If your thyroid collects a large amount of radioactive iodine, you probably have Graves’ disease or thyroid nodules. Please note, women should always tell their doctor and technician if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    3. Thyroid scan: For thyroid scan, a technician injects a small amount of radioactive iodine or a similar substance into your vein that will be absorbed by your thyroid. Further, during the scan, you will lie on a moveable examination table with your head stretched backward and neck extended. The gamma camera will then take a series of images of your thyroid gland from different angles and display them on computer screen. The radioactive substance makes all or certain parts of your thyroid gland appear “bright” on the screen. Moreover, thyroid nodules that make too much thyroid hormone show up clearly in the images.

      Furthermore, a thyroid scan can also reveal whether the entire thyroid gland or just a single area is causing the problem. Your doctor may use a thyroid scan to look for nodules, inflammation and thyroid cancer. Please note, women should always tell their doctor and technician if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Hyperthyroidism Treatment

The treatment of your hyperthyroidism depends on the cause of hyperthyroidism, how severe it is, your age and physical condition. Further, hyperthyroidism is usually treated with one or more of the following:

  • Antithyroid medicines: These medicines stop your thyroid gland from producing too much thyroid hormone. The antithyroid medicines may take several weeks or months to bring your thyroid hormone levels into the normal range and also gradually reduce your symptoms of hyperthyroidism. However, you probably need to take the medicines for 1 to 2 years, but can continue for many years.

    Moreover, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), antithyroid medicines can cause side effects, including:

    • Allergic reactions, such as rashes and itching.
    • Joint Pain.
    • Reduced white blood cells in your body, which can increase the chance of infections.
    • Liver failure, in rare cases.

    So call your doctor immediately if you have symptoms such as yellow skin or eyes, fatigue, fever, sore throat, or pain in your belly. Furthermore, you should also follow up regularly with your doctor to determine whether or not the dose needs to be adjusted based on your thyroid function test results.

    Also make sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning for the same, and if you take other medications. Please always take medication as advised by your doctor.

  • Beta blocker medicines: Your doctor may prescribe a medicine known as beta blocker. These drugs cannot treat the high levels of thyroid hormone in your blood, but can help to reduce the symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as nervousness, anxiety, shaking, or a fast heartbeat.

    Therefore, your doctor may prescribe these drugs to help you feel better until other treatments take effect. Please note, this treatment is not used alone and is usually paired with another option to treat hyperthyroidism.

  • Radioactive iodine therapy: Radioactive iodine is usually taken by mouth as a tablet or liquid, that contains iodine and a low dose of radiation. Once swallowed, the radioactive iodine gets into your bloodstream and quickly absorb by your overactive thyroid cells. Further, radioactive iodine slowly destroys the cells of the thyroid gland. As a result, your thyroid shrink in size and your levels of thyroid hormone go down. This treatment may cause your thyroid activity slow enough to be considered as hypothyroidism, which is easier to treat than hyperthyroidism.

    Radioactive iodine therapy is a common and effective treatment for hyperthyroidism. However, this therapy is not suitable for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It can harm the fetus’ thyroid and can be passed from mother to child through breast milk.

  • Surgery of the Thyroid Gland: During surgery, all or part of your thyroid gland is removed by your doctor. This is also known as thyroidectomy. Your doctor may recommend surgery if you do not respond to other treatments or cannot tolerate other therapies for hyperthyroidism. However, surgery is used in rare cases to treat hyperthyroidism.

    Furthermore, after surgery, if all of your thyroid gland is removed, you will become hypothyroid. As a result, you will need to take levothyroxine (a synthetic form of thyroid hormone) for the rest of your life. It is usually prescribed by the doctor as one small pill a day. Taking this drug prevents hypothyroidism.

    In addition, thyroid surgery comes with small risk of injury to structures near the thyroid gland in the neck. It can damage the nerves of your vocal cords and your parathyroid glands.

What Foods are Good and Bad for Hyperthyroidism?

Your thyroid gland uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. Therefore, eating foods that have large amounts of iodine may cause hyperthyroidism or make it worse. Hence, it is important to watch your iodine intake if you have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

Furthermore, if we talk about diet plan, then there are certainly many do’s and dont’s. Although a healthy diet cannot cure or prevent hyperthyroidism, however, eating healthy foods may help ease hyperthyroidism symptoms.

What to Eat
  • Fruit and fruit juices
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Potato
  • Honey
  • Cauliflower, Broccoli
  • Unsalted Nuts
  • Egg whites
  • Radishes 
  • Moderate portions of Red Meat, Chicken
What to avoid
  • Dairy Products
  • Soy Products
  • Salted Nuts and Seeds
  • Caffeine
  • Fish and Shellfish
  • Seaweed
  • Egg yolks
  • Chocolate

Please note, talk to your doctor about which foods, supplements, and medicines you need to avoid. Your doctor or dietitian will be able to provide more information about dietary changes for hyperthyroidism. Always consult your doctor or a registered dietician before making any drastic changes to your diet.

In addition, stress management and exercising can help ease hyperthyroid symptoms. So you can start with some simple exercises like walking, aerobics, pushups and yoga.

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