Hyperthyroidism can affect all of your body functions. It causes the body’s normal rate of functioning to speed up. This can result in physical, behavioral, and emotional changes. Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to serious medical problems. Hyperthyroidism cannot be prevented, but it is generally treatable and rarely fatal.
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland in your brain regulate T4 and T3 production. When T4 and T3 levels are low, the hypothalamus produces thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) to signal the pituitary gland to produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The TSH travels in the bloodstream and signals the thyroid gland to produce more T4 and T3. When T4 and T3 levels are high, the pituitary gland stops producing TSH.
Hyperthyroidism causes your metabolic rate to speed up. You may have a fast irregular heartbeat and palpitations. You may have hand tremors. It may be difficult to breathe, even when you are resting. Hyperthyroidism can cause your body temperature to rise. You may feel warm and sweat a lot. Your skin may be red and itchy. Because your body is working at a faster speed, you may feel exhausted and have muscle weakness.
Hyperthyroidism can make you feel anxious, nervous, depressed, and irritable. You may also feel restless and moody. You may have difficulty sleeping.
Your digestive system can also be affected by hyperthyroidism. Your digestive system may speed up and cause diarrhea. You may experience frequent bowel movements. You may even lose weight, even though you are eating normally.
Your hair may become fine. It may become thin and fall out. Your fingernails may become soft and easy to break.
Females may experience irregular menstrual periods that are lighter and shorter. You may even skip periods. In some women, the ovaries stop producing eggs, which can cause temporary infertility. Additionally, an undiagnosed thyroid problem in early pregnancy can cause miscarriage.
Both men and women can experience a decreased sex drive. In males this can lead to impotence. Hyperthyroidism can cause some men to stop producing sperm, causing temporary infertility. Breast enlargement is considered a classic sign of hyperthyroidism in men.
People with Grave’s Disease may have additional symptoms. These include goiter, skin and eye problems. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. It is painless and may reach a noticeable size. Finger “clubbing” can occur with the fingers widened at the tips. Your fingernails may become thick and lift off of the nail bed. You may also develop lumpy red skin on your shins and the tops of your feet. Grave’s Ophthalmopathy causes bulging and reddened eyes. This condition is more likely to occur in people who smoke.
On some occasions, your doctor may order a Thyroid Ultrasound or a Thyroid Scan and Radioactive Iodine Uptake (RAIU) Test. Thyroid scans are used to detect problems with the thyroid gland. It can identify how the thyroid gland is functioning and specify areas of overactivity or underactivity. Further, it can determine if thyroid nodules or cancer are present.
Your blood will be tested for antithyroid antibodies to diagnose Grave’s Disease. If you have Grave’s Ophthalmopathy, a Computed Tomography (CT) Scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan can be used to view your eye structures. CT scans provide a view in layers, like the slices that make up a loaf of bread. The MRI scan is very sensitive. It provides detailed images. The CT and MRI scans are painless procedures.
It is important that you attend all of your doctor appointments. It is important that you take your antithyroid medication at the same time each day. You doctor will continue to monitor your dose of medicine to make sure you receive the correct amount.
Am I at Risk
Risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing hyperthyroidism. People with all of the risk factors may never develop the condition; however, the chance of developing hyperthyroidism increases with the more risk factors you have. You should tell your doctor about your risk factors and discuss your concerns.
Risk factors for hyperthyroidism:
_____ Women are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism than men.
_____ A family history of thyroid problems, particularly Grave’s Disease, increases your risk.
_____ If you have an autoimmune disease, such as Type 1 Diabetes or Addison’s Disease, you are at risk.
_____ Smoking cigarettes is associated with an increased likelihood of developing Grave’s Disease.
_____ Stress may also increase the risk for developing hyperthyroidism.
You should call your doctor immediately, go to an emergency room, or call emergency services if you have difficulty breathing, feel very tired, have a very fast heartbeat, or chest pain. These can be symptoms of a heart problem.
Other symptoms that should prompt you to call your doctor are feeling irritable, unusually high or low blood pressure, feeling nauseous, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, confusion, or drowsiness. You should call your doctor if you develop bulging reddened eyes, which are symptoms of Grave’s Ophthalmopathy. You should also call your doctor if you have trouble swallowing, if your throat is swollen, or if you are losing weight even though you are eating.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.