Also known as hyperthyroidism, it is a relatively common hormonal condition that occurs when there is too much thyroid hormone in the body.
Excess levels of thyroid hormones can speed up the body’s metabolism, triggering a variety of symptoms.
The severity, frequency, and range of symptoms can vary from person to person.
Causes of a high thyroid
The thyroid gland is located in the neck.
It produces hormones that are released into the bloodstream to control the body’s growth and metabolism.
These hormones are called thyroxine and triiodothyronine .
They affect processes like heart rate and body temperature, and help convert food into energy to keep the body running.
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine or triiodothyronine, which speeds up the body’s metabolism.
There are several possible underlying causes, the most common of which is Graves disease, in which the body’s immune system targets the thyroid gland and causes it to produce too many thyroid hormones.
Women are 10 times more likely to have an overactive thyroid gland than men.
In most cases, symptoms will start somewhere between the ages of 20 and 40, although they can start at any age, even in childhood.
A high thyroid gland occurs more often in white and Asian people, and less often in Afro-Caribbean people.
An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) has many signs and symptoms, although you are unlikely to develop all of them.
When you have hyperthyroidism, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Mood swings, such as anxiety, irritability, and nervousness.
- Difficulty sleeping ( insomnia ).
- Tiredness (fatigue)
- Muscular weakness.
- Need to pass stools and urinate more frequently.
- Presence of excess fat in the stool (steatorrhea).
- Sensitivity to heat and excessive sweating.
- Unexplained or unexpected weight loss, despite having an increase in appetite (although in a small number of cases, increased appetite can lead to weight gain).
- Very infrequent or light menstrual periods, or periods that stop completely.
- Loss of interest in sex.
When you have diabetes, diabetic symptoms, such as extreme thirst and tiredness, can be made worse by hyperthyroidism.
High thyroid signs
When you have a high thyroid, some of the following physical signs occur:
- Swelling in the neck caused by an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter).
- Irregular or unusually fast heartbeat (palpitations).
- Warm and moist skin.
- Redness in the palms of the hands.
- Loosening of the nails from your nail beds.
- Irregular hair loss (alopecia).
- Contractions in the face and extremities.
- A doctor should be consulted if any of the above symptoms are experienced.
A high thyroid generally responds well to treatment, and most people can control their symptoms.
By determining the underlying cause of the high thyroid, the patient’s age, the size of the thyroid gland, and the presence of coexisting medical conditions in a diagnosis, the physician may recommend appropriate treatment.
Medications are available to immediately treat symptoms caused by excess thyroid hormones, such as a rapid heart rate.
One of the main classes of drugs used to treat these symptoms are beta blockers, for example propranolol (Inderal), atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor).
These medications do not alter the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood, they only counteract the effect of thyroid hormone to increase metabolism.
The thionamides are a group of medications, including carbimazole and methimazole, that stop the excessive production of thyroid hormone in the thyroid gland.
There are two main antithyroid medications available to treat hyperthyroidism, such as methimazole (Tapazol) and propylthiouracil.
The risk that occurs with the use of these drugs is the eventual suppression of the bone marrow’s production of white blood cells (agranulocytosis), which are necessary to fight infections.
It is impossible to determine whether or not this side effect will occur, so suppressing the regular production of white blood cells in the blood is not helpful.
In rare cases, methimazole or propylthiouracil can cause fever, sore throat, or other signs of infection.
If these symptoms develop, the doctor should be contacted immediately.
Long-term antithyroid therapy is generally only used in people with Graves ‘disease, as Graves’ disease can go into remission under treatment without requiring treatment with thyroid radiation or surgery.
Studies have also shown that adding a thyroid hormone pill to antithyroid medication results in higher remission rates. But, this type of therapy is still very controversial today.
If a patient relapses, antithyroid medication may be restarted, or radioactive iodine or surgery may be considered.
This radioactive iodine treatment is given by mouth (either as a tablet or liquid) one time to remove an overactive gland.
Iodine helps reduce the thyroid gland, reducing its activity, the radiation contained in iodine is a very low dose and does not pose a threat to health.
The iodine given for ablative treatment is different from the iodine used in an exam.
Radioactive iodine is administered after a routine iodine test, and iodine absorption is determined to confirm hyperthyroidism.
It takes 8-12 weeks for the thyroid gland to return to normal after therapy.
Permanent hypothyroidism is one of the main complications of this form of treatment.
Although a temporary hypothyroid state may be observed for up to six months after radioactive iodine treatment, if it persists for more than six months, thyroid replacement therapy is usually initiated.
In a small number of cases, surgery may be required to remove part or all of the thyroid gland, particularly if there is a large goiter.
With the introduction of radioactive iodine therapy and antithyroid drugs, surgery for hyperthyroidism (thyroidectomy) is less common.
Beta-blockers can also sometimes be used to temporarily relieve many symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland, although it does not target the thyroid gland.
It is common for treatment to cause the thyroid to not make enough hormones. This is known as having an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
However, an underactive thyroid is usually not serious and is easily treated.