Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

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The hormones secreted by the thyroid gland regulate your body's metabolism; the gland is an integral part of your endrocrine system. Hyperthyroidism is the term given to an overactive thyroid gland that produces too much of the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). By being aware of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, you can know when to consult your health-care provider.

Basics

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped, two-lobed endocrine gland located in front of the trachea at the base of the throat. Hormones produced by the thyroid are vital, and, if the thyroid is removed or damaged, they must be replaced with thyroid-replacement hormone medication, such as Synthroid (levothyroxine).

Causes

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease, accounting for approximately 80 percent of diagnosed cases, according to “Endocrinology: An Integrated Approach.” In descending order, the next most common causes of an overactive thyroid are toxic multinodular goiter, toxic adenoma, thyroiditis, TSH-secreting pituitary tumor, trophoblastic tumor, thyrotoxicosis factitia, and thyroid follicular carcinoma. The last four conditions in this list are rare, occurring in less than 1 percent of all cases of hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include sudden weight loss, rapid heart beat (usually a pulse of 100 or more), irregular heart beat, palpitations, a swelling in the lower part of your throat, increased appetite, anxiety and nervousness, irritability, shakiness of the hands and/or fingers, sweating, intolerance to heat, changes in your menstrual cycle, change in bowel habits, difficulty sleeping, fatigue and weakness.

Symptoms Specific to Grave's Ophthalmology

Graves' ophthalmology is an uncommon disorder associated with Graves' disease. In this condition, the eyeballs protrude from their sockets; eyes may be red, swollen or sensitive to light; and there may be excessive tearing in the eyes or other discomfort. You may also experience blurry or double vision, as well as a loss of eye movement.

Expert Insight

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism in older adults may not be as noticeable as in younger people. People who take beta-blocking medications should be alert as these medications can mask the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Treatment

The treatment of hyperthyroidism depends in part on the cause of the condition, but generally treatment will be with oral medications or the use of swallowed radioactive iodine, which shrinks the gland. In some cases, surgical removal of the thyroid may be necessary, and replacement hormone medications will have to be taken indefinitely.

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