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Hyperthyroidism is a condition of the thyroid. The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland located at the front of your neck. It produces tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are two primary hormones that control how your cells use energy. Thyroid gland regulates your metabolism through the release of these hormones. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid makes too much T4, T3, or both. Diagnosis of overactive thyroid and treatment of the underlying cause can relieve symptoms and prevent complications.


What Your Thyroid Does

Two major hormones that affect how your body works are made in your thyroid. These are called thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3). Your thyroid controls things like how fast your heart beats and how quickly you burn calories. It releases hormones to control your metabolism (all the things your body does to turn food into energy and keep you going). Another important hormone your thyroid makes is called parathyroid hormone. This helps keep a healthy amount of calcium in your blood. Hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid, can speed up your metabolism and cause unpleasant symptoms.


Causes of Hyperthyroidism

A variety of conditions can cause hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It causes antibodies to stimulate the thyroid to secrete too much hormone. Graves’ disease occurs more often in women than in men. It tends to run in families, which suggests a genetic link. You should tell your doctor if your relatives have had the condition. People with Graves’ disease may also get a rare condition called Graves’ Dermopathy. It can cause redness and thickening of your skin, usually on the tops of your feet or your shins.

Other causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • excess iodine, a key ingredient in T4 and T3

  • thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, which causes T4 and T3 to leak out of the gland

  • tumors of the ovaries or testes

  • benign tumors of the thyroid or pituitary gland

  • large amounts of tetraiodothyronine taken through dietary supplements or medication


Thyroid nodules (Plummer’s disease). These lumps of tissue in your thyroid can become overactive, creating too much thyroid hormone. Plummer’s disease is more common in older people.

Thyroiditis. An infection or an immune system problem can cause your thyroid to swell and leak hormones into your bloodstream. With this condition, your thyroid is swollen for no clear reason. This is often followed by hypothyroidism, in which your thyroid doesn’t make enough hormones. These conditions are usually temporary. Thyroiditis can happen:

  • After pregnancy

  • When you get a virus or another problem with your immune system

  • If you take too much thyroid medication

You can also get hyperthyroidism if you get lots of iodine in your diet (like in a medication or supplement) or from taking too much thyroid hormone medication.


Thyroid Eye Disease

About 30% of people with Graves’ disease get a condition called thyroid eye disease. It involves your vision and eyes, including the muscles and tissues around them. Symptoms include:

  • Bulging eyes

  • A gritty feeling, pain, or pressure in your eyes

  • Redness or inflammation in or around your eyes

  • Eyelids that are puffy or pulled back

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Double vision or loss of vision

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism often begins slowly. Its symptoms can be mistaken for stress or other health problems. Common symptoms include:

  • Unplanned weight loss.

  • Rapid heartbeat, abnormal heartbeat, or pounding of the heart.

  • Nervousness, anxiety, or touchiness.

  • Tremors (trembling of the hands and fingers).

  • Changes in menstrual patterns, such as lighter flow or less frequent periods, in women.

  • Increased sensitivity to heat.

  • Increased sweating.

  • Bowel changes.

  • An enlarged thyroid gland (called a goiter), which can appear as swelling at the base of the neck.

  • Fatigue.

  • Muscle weakness.

  • Trouble sleeping.

  • Increased appetite.

Symptoms in older adults may be subtle. Examples are increased heart rate, fatigue during normal activities, and withdrawal. Sometimes it can be mistaken hyperthyroidism for depression or dementia. People who have Graves’ disease may have additional symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is swollen or bulging eyes. This can cause your eyes to be dry and red and sensation of pain:

  • Pain.

  • Tearing.

  • Blurry or double vision.

  • Sensitivity to light.


What you can do to improve symptoms

Eating a proper diet, with a focus on calcium and sodium, is important, especially in preventing hyperthyroidism. Work with your doctor to create healthy guidelines for your diet, nutritional supplements, and exercise. Hyperthyroidism can also cause your bones to become weak and thin, which can lead to osteoporosis. Taking vitamin D and calcium supplements during and after treatment can help strengthen your bones. Your doctor can tell you how much vitamin D and calcium to take each day. 

     To know more about how to proceed ahead with the condition like hyperthyroidism and steps to reverse it, schedule consultation with our Public Health Specialist. 

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