Everything You Should Know About The Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid makes too much of a hormone called thyroxine.
Your thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland at the bottom of your neck. It is just above your collarbone. When your thyroid makes too much of a hormone called thyroxine, it causes problems in your body. And these problems manifest as symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Your thyroid controls things like how fast your heart beats; and how quickly you burn calories. It also releases hormones to control your metabolism. It basically handles all the things your body does to turn food into energy and keep you going. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are unpleasant, as your thyroid speeds up your metabolism.
So in essence, hyperthyroidism is your thyroid producing excess thyroxine, thus resulting in unpleasant symptoms in the body.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism?
Common symptoms include:
- Nervousness, anxiety, or crankiness
- Mood swings
- Fatigue or weakness
- Sensitivity to heat
- A swollen thyroid (called a goiter). You might see swelling at the base of your neck.
- Losing weight suddenly, without trying
- Fast or uneven heartbeat or palpitations (pounding in your heart)
- Having more bowel movements
- Shaking in your hands and fingers (tremor)
- Sleeping problems
- Thinning skin
- Fine, brittle hair
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
If you’re an older adult, you’re more likely to have subtle symptoms like a faster heart rate; or be more sensitive to warm temperatures. Also, you could just feel more tired after everyday activities.
Certain medicines can mask the signs of hyperthyroidism. For instance, if you take beta-blockers to treat high blood pressure, you might not know you have it. So, be sure your doctor knows about all the medications you take.
When you first get hyperthyroidism, you may feel energetic. But this is only because your metabolism is sped up. However, over time, this increase in your metabolism can break your body down and cause you to feel tired.
Usually, hyperthyroidism develops slowly. If you’re young when you get it, the symptoms might come on suddenly. According to experts, 2 in 100 Nigerians suffer the condition; and 35% of goitre patients have hyperthyroidism.
What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
Several conditions can cause hyperthyroidism.
- Graves’ disease.
This immune system disorder is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. And it’s more likely to affect women under the age of 40.
- Thyroid nodules.
These lumps of tissue in your thyroid can become overactive, creating too much thyroid hormone.
An infection or an immune system problem can cause your thyroid to swell and leak hormones. This is often followed by hypothyroidism, in which your thyroid doesn’t make enough hormones. But these conditions are usually temporary.
You can also get hyperthyroidism if you get lots of iodine in your diet (like in medication or supplement) or from taking too much thyroid hormone medication.
About 30% of people with Graves’ disease get a condition called Graves’ ophthalmopathy. 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: Diagnosis
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and look for symptoms; including a swollen thyroid, a fast pulse, moist skin, and shaking in your hands or fingers. They’ll give you tests that might include:
- Thyroid panel. This blood test measures levels of thyroid hormones and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
- Thyroid scan. A technician injects a small amount of radioactive iodine into your bloodstream. Your thyroid absorbs it, and a special camera takes pictures of the gland to look for nodules or other signs of problems.
- Ultrasound. A technician runs a device called a transducer over your neck. It uses sound waves to create images of your thyroid.
- Radioactive iodine uptake test. You swallow a small amount of radioactive iodine. A device called a gamma probe measures how much of the iodine collects in your thyroid. If this uptake is high, you probably have Graves’ disease or thyroid nodules.
Your doctor will help you decide on a treatment based on your age, your overall health, the kind of hyperthyroidism you have, and how severe it is. Your options might include:
- Antithyroid drugs. Methimazole (Tapazole) and propylthiouracil (PTU) block your thyroid from making too many hormones. And they have side effects that include allergic reactions like rashes or itching. It’s rare, but these drugs can also cause your body to make fewer white blood cells. And this makes you more likely to get infections. Rarely, these medicines can also damage your liver. So call your doctor right away if you have symptoms like yellow skin or eyes, fatigue, or pain in your belly.
- Beta-blockers. These medications don’t treat your levels of thyroid hormone, but can help with symptoms like anxiety, shaking, or a fast heartbeat.
- Radioactive iodine. You swallow a small amount of radioactive iodine. And then your overactive thyroid cells absorb it, and it destroys them. So, this makes your thyroid shrink and your levels of thyroid hormone go down. Also, you might need to have this treatment more than once. It may also cause hypothyroidism(the opposite of hyperthyroidism). But this is easier to treat than hyperthyroidism: You’ll take a hormone supplement once a day.
- Surgery. If medications aren’t a good option for you, your doctor may remove all or part of your thyroid. And this is called a thyroidectomy. Also, you might need to take antithyroid medicines before the surgery to prevent complications. And then afterwards, you might have hypothyroidism and need to take a hormone supplement.