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22 / 10 / 2017
Hyperthyroidism
 
 
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Hyperthyroidism

 
DIABETES AND ENDOCRINE SYSTEM

Endocrine System

 

Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine; speeding up your metabolism and sometimes leading to serious complications.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. Although it weighs less than an ounce, the thyroid gland has an enormous impact on your health. Every aspect of your metabolism, from your heart rate to how quickly you burn calories, is regulated by thyroid hormones.

As long as your thyroid produces the right amount of these hormones, your metabolism functions normally. But sometimes your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine - a condition known as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid disease). This can accelerate your body's metabolism - sometimes by as much as 60 percent to 100 percent - causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat and nervousness or irritability.

Signs and symptoms

Hyperthyroidism can mimic other health problems, which may make it difficult to diagnose. It can also cause a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including:

  • Sudden weight loss, even when your appetite and food intake remain normal or increase

  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — up to 200 beats per minute, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or pounding of your heart (palpitations)

  • Nervousness, anxiety or anxiety attacks, irritability

  • Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers

  • Sweating

  • Changes in menstrual patterns

  •  Increased sensitivity to heat

  • Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements

  • An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck

  • Fatigue, muscle weakness

  • Difficulty sleeping

Older adults are more likely to have either no symptoms or very subtle ones, such as an increased heart rate, heat intolerance and a tendency to become tired during ordinary activities.

Sometimes an uncommon problem called Graves' ophthalmopathy may affect your eyes. In this disorder, your eyeballs protrude beyond their normal protective orbit when tissues and muscles behind your eyes swell, pushing the eyeballs forward. This can cause the front surface of your eyeballs to become very dry. Other signs and symptoms of Graves' ophthalmopathy include:

  • Red or swollen eyes

  • Widening of the space between your eyelids

  • Excessive tearing or discomfort in one or both eyes

  • Light sensitivity, blurry or double vision, inflammation, or reduced eye movement

Causes

Your thyroid gland produces two main hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine. They maintain the rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates, help control your body temperature, influence your heart rate and help regulate the production of protein. Your thyroid gland also produces calcitonin, a hormone that helps regulate the amount of calcium in your blood.

The rate at which thyroxine and triiodothyronine are released is controlled by your pituitary gland and your hypothalamus — an area at the base of your brain that acts as a thermostat for your whole system. Here's how the process works:

The hypothalamus signals your pituitary gland to make a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Your pituitary gland then releases TSH — the amount depends on how much thyroxine and triiodothyronine are in your blood. Finally, your thyroid gland regulates its production of hormones based on the amount of TSH it receives.

Normally, your thyroid releases the right amount of hormones, but sometimes it produces too much thyroxine. This may occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Graves' disease. The cause of most hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease, an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies produced by your immune system stimulate your thyroid to produce too much thyroxine. Normally, your immune system uses antibodies to help protect against viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances that invade your body. In Graves' disease, antibodies mistakenly attack your thyroid gland and occasionally the tissue behind your eyes and the skin of your lower legs. Scientists aren't sure exactly what causes Graves' disease, although several factors — including a genetic predisposition — are likely involved. Sometimes a viral infection or stress also can trigger Graves' disease.

  • Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules (toxic adenoma, toxic multinodular goiter, Plummer's disease). This form of hyperthyroidism occurs when one or more adenomas of your thyroid produce too much thyroxine. An adenoma is a part of the gland that has walled itself off from the rest of the gland, forming noncancerous (benign) lumps that may cause an enlargement of the thyroid. Not all adenomas produce excess thyroxine, and researchers aren't sure what causes some to begin producing too much hormone.

  • Thyroiditis. Sometimes your thyroid gland can become inflamed for unknown reasons. The inflammation can cause excess thyroid hormone stored in the gland to leak into your bloodstream. One rare type of thyroiditis, known as subacute thyroiditis, causes pain in the thyroid gland. Other types are painless and may sometimes occur after pregnancy (postpartum thyroiditis).

When to seek medical advice

If you experience unexplained weight loss, a rapid heartbeat, unusual sweating, swelling at the base of your neck, or other signs and symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, see your doctor. It's important to completely describe the changes you've observed, because many signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be associated with a number of other conditions.

If you've been treated for hyperthyroidism or currently are being treated, see your doctor regularly so he or she can monitor your condition.

 

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.

In no event will the DrEddyClinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.
 
 
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Dr. Eddy Bettermann M.D.

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