Definition: the overactive thyroid is when the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine.
Hyperthyroidism accelerates the body’s metabolism significantly, causing sudden weight loss, rapid and irregular heartbeat, sweating, and nervousness or irritability.
There are several treatment options available to treat this condition. Doctors use anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine to decrease the production of this type of hormone.
Sometimes, the treatment of hyperthyroidism lies in surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland.
Although hyperthyroidism can be severe, most people respond successfully to treatment once diagnosed and treated early.
Hyperthyroidism can mimic other health problems, making it difficult to diagnose. It can also cause a wide variety of signs and symptoms:
- Sudden weight loss
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), or heartbeat (palpitations).
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety, and irritability.
- A tremor in my hands and fingers.
- Excessive sweating
- Variations in menstrual hormones.
- Increased sensitivity to heat.
- Enlargement of the thyroid gland.
- Muscular weakness.
- Difficulty in sleeping.
- Thinning of the skin
- Fine and brittle hair.
Older adults are more likely to have signs or symptoms, such as increased heart rate, heat intolerance, and fatigue during ordinary activities.
Medications called beta-blockers are used to treat high blood pressure and other conditions, and these can conceal several of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Some conditions such as Graves’ disease, toxic adenoma, Plummer’s disease (toxic multinodular goiter), and thyroiditis can cause hyperthyroidism.
The thyroid gland, which has a butterfly shape and is located at the base of the neck, just below the “Adam’s apple,” despite being very small and weighing less than an ounce, has a significant impact On health.
Thyroid hormones regulate all aspects of metabolism.
This gland produces two main hormones: thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3); these hormones influence every cell in the body.
For example, they maintain the speed at which the body handles fats and carbohydrates; they help control the heart rate and temperature and regulate the production of proteins.
Similarly, the thyroid also produces calcitonin, a hormone that regulates the amount of calcium in the blood.
Tests and diagnosis
Clinical history and physical examination. The doctor may detect a slight tremor in the fingers when stretched, hyperactive reflexes, eye changes, and hot and moist skin during the exam.
Blood tests. The diagnosis can be confirmed by blood tests, which will measure thyroxine and TSH levels.
High levels of thyroxine and low amounts of TSH indicate an overactive thyroid. The part of TSH is important because it is the hormone that tells the thyroid gland when to produce more thyroxine.
These tests are essential for older adults who may not have the classic symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
If blood tests indicate hyperthyroidism, the doctor may recommend performing:
Radioiodine absorption test. You take a small, oral dose of radioactive iodine for this test. After a few minutes, the iodine will accumulate in the thyroid; after 2, 6, or 24 hours, the amount of iodine that the thyroid gland has absorbed will be determined.
High absorption of radioactive iodine indicates that the gland is producing excessive thyroxine. The most likely cause is a hyperfunctioning disease or severe nodules.
Thyroid examination. During this test, a radioactive isotope will be injected into the vein inside the elbow or a vein in the hand.
Next, the patient lies on a table with his head stretched back, and a special camera will capture an image of the thyroid gland on a screen.
The time needed for this procedure varies depending on how long it takes for the isotope to reach the gland.
During the performance of this test, there may be discomfort in the neck, apart from the fact that the person is exposed to low levels of radiation.
Treatment of Hyperthyroidism
The radioactive iodine. It is taken orally and is absorbed by the thyroid gland, where it causes the gland to shrink and symptoms to decrease, usually within three to six months.
This treatment has been used for more than 60 years, and radioactive iodine is generally safe.
Anti-thyroid drugs . They progressively reduce the symptoms of hyperthyroidism by preventing the thyroid gland from producing vast amounts of hormones; these include propylthiouracil and methimazole (Tapazole).
Symptoms usually begin to improve from 6 to 12 weeks, but treatment with anti-thyroid medications usually continues for at least a year and often longer.
This permanently clarifies the problem for some people, but others have experienced a relapse.
Both drugs can cause severe liver damage and sometimes cause death. Because propylthiouracil causes severe liver damage, it should only be used when methimazole can not be tolerated.
A small number of people who are allergic to these drugs may develop skin rashes, hives, fever, or joint pain. It can also make them more susceptible to infection.
Beta-blockers. Commonly used to treat very high blood pressure. It does not lower thyroid levels, but it can reduce the heart rate quickly and helps prevent heart palpitations.
The most common side effects are fatigue, headache, upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, or dizziness.
Surgery (thyroidectomy) The doctor removes most of the thyroid gland. The risks of this surgery include damage to the vocal cords and parathyroid glands.