Hyperthyroidism, otherwise known as thyrotoxicosis, is a condition in which excess thyroid hormones exist due to an overproduction from the thyroid gland. The thyroid itself is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, which is made up of thousands of follicles. Being that the thyroid is part of the endocrine system, the hormones that it produces affect things like metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature, among other things. Hyperthyroidism is said to affect women more than men and is most commonly caused by a condition known as Graves’ disease. While an overactive thyroid is generally not life-threatening, if left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms and potentially serious complications.
In addition to Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism may be caused by excess iodine, thyroiditis, tumors of the ovaries or testes, benign tumors of the thyroid or pituitary gland, and large amounts of tetraiodothyronine. Iodine is found in many foods, such as dairy products and seafood, and is a key ingredient in T4 and T3. These two hormones are essentially responsible for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, hence why thyroiditis is troublesome. In short, thyroiditis refers to inflammation of the thyroid, which causes T4 and T3 to leak out of the gland. As for tetraiodothyronine, this is another name for the T4 hormone and becomes problematic when taken through dietary supplements or medicines in excess quantities.
Risk factors for hyperthyroidism include being a person of the female sex, having a family history of Graves’ disease or of the condition itself, and having a personal history of certain chronic illnesses, such as type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia, and primary adrenal insufficiency. Those who are older than the age of 60 years and who were pregnant within the past 6 months are also at a greater risk of developing hyperthyroidism. As for complications, these range from heart and eye problems to brittle bones and swollen skin. Hyperthyroidism also places sufferers at a great risk of thyrotoxic crisis, a sudden intensification of symptoms which can lead to a fever, a rapid pulse, and even delirium. Should any of these occur, it is important that the individual seeks medical care immediately.
Doctors diagnose hyperthyroidism in a number of different ways, the first of which includes conducting a complete medical history and physical exam. This can reveal or rule out the most typical symptoms such as weight loss, rapid pulse, elevated blood pressure, protruding eyes, and an enlarged thyroid gland. To further evaluate the diagnosis, other tests may be performed. These include cholesterol tests, thyroid function tests, thyroid stimulating hormone level tests, triglyceride tests, thyroid scan and uptake, ultrasounds, and CT or MRI scans. In terms of treatment, hyperthyroidism may be treated with medication, radioactive iodine, and surgery.
Certain symptoms of hyperthyroidism can be improved through diet, nutritional supplements, and exercise. As such, some recommended lifestyle remedies include eating a diet that is high in calcium and sodium, taking vitamin D and calcium supplements, and leading a physically active lifestyle. It’s also a good idea to limit or avoid foods with large amounts of iodine, such as kelp, dulse, and other kinds of seaweed. Cough syrups and multivitamins may also contain surprisingly high levels of iodine. Generally speaking, the long-term outlook for hyperthyroidism depends on the root cause of the disease. While some cases of hyperthyroidism will disappear without treatment, others may worsen overtime and affect the quality of the sufferer’s life.