The signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism are many and varied. That is, excessive amounts of thyroid hormones can affect appetite, bowel movements, sleep, menstrual periods, mental function, vision, blood sugar, heart rate, and several other basic processes of life. Given the long list of typical signs and symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, the condition can mimic other diseases and be difficult to diagnose. On the other hand, some sufferers do not experience any signs or symptoms, especially those aged 70 years and older. In younger individuals, however, the onset can be sudden and potentially life-threatening. Symptoms which require immediate medical attention include dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and a fast or otherwise irregular heart rate.
The majority of signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism are related to the increase in metabolic rate in the body, also known as a hypermetabolic state. These include irritability and nervousness, mood swings and decreased concentration, sudden paralysis and vision changes, tiredness and fatigue, muscle weakness and difficulty sleeping, hyperactivity and oversensitivity to heat, increased bowel movements and urination, itchy skin and alopecia, increased appetite and accelerated heartbeat, sudden weight loss or weight gain, redness and trembling of the hands, irregular menstrual cycles or scanty blood flow in women, and the list goes on. These symptoms generally vary from person to person, and one sufferer will rarely experience all of them.
When hyperthyroidism is coupled with diabetes, patients may experience heightened diabetes symptoms, namely fatigue and increased thirst. Similarly, when hyperthyroidism and heart disease are paired together, patients are at a greater risk of arrhythmia, heart failure, and other cardiovascular risks. Arrhythmia refers to a condition in which the heart beats too fast or too slow, or the heartbeat is otherwise irregular. The most common type of heart arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which can lead to strokes and congestive heart failure, the latter of which is a serious condition where the heart fails to pump blood efficiently throughout the body. Irregular heart rhythms and heart failure are more likely to occur in older people, as are mental changes such as confusion and delirium. In some instances, a so-called thyroid storm may occur, characterized by high blood pressure, fever, and heart failure.
If Graves’ disease is the underlying cause of hyperthyroidism in a patient, as is the case for approximately 70 percent of people with an overactive thyroid, some extra symptoms may occur. The most common of these is known as bulging eyes, a condition in which the tissues around the eye become inflamed, creating a so-called bulging effect. While anyone can develop Graves’ disease, it is most common in women between the ages of 30 and 60. Additional risk factors include pregnancy, stress, and smoking. The signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease are very similar to those of hyperthyroidism, as are the methods of diagnosis and treatment. These symptoms include anxiety and irritability, fatigue and difficulty sleeping, hand tremors and increased heartbeat, excessive sweating and frequent bowel movements, as well as altered menstrual cycles in women. In the event that Graves’ disease is left untreated, the condition can lead to heart problems and brittle bones.