Symptoms Of An Overactive Thyroid
The thyroid produces hormones that affect things such as:
The hormones can also affect your heart rate and body temperature.
An overactive thyroid can cause a wide range of possible symptoms. It’s unlikely you’ll experience all of them.
The symptoms may develop gradually or suddenly. For some people they’re quite mild. For others, they can be severe and significantly affect their life.
Can I Develop Hyperthyroidism During Pregnancy
During early pregnancy, your body needs to produce more thyroid hormones than normal to help the developing fetus. These hormones are particularly important for its brain and nervous system. Having thyroid hormone levels that are a little higher than normal is alright, but if your levels increase dramatically, your healthcare provider may need to form a treatment plan. High levels of thyroid hormones can impact not only you but also the fetus.
It can be difficult to diagnose hyperthyroidism during pregnancy because your thyroid hormone levels naturally increase and the other symptoms of pregnancy mask signs of hyperthyroidism.
Risk Factors For An Overactive Thyroid
- A family history of Graves’ disease or autoimmune disorders
- Women are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism compared to men
- A personal medical history of specific chronic illnesses, including type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia, or primary adrenal insufficiency
- Common viral infections
- Excess iodine intake
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What Are The Complications Of Hyperthyroidism
Untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause serious health problems, including
- an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related problems
- an eye disease called Graves ophthalmopathy
- thinning bones, osteoporosis, and muscle problems
- menstrual cycle and fertility issues
What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism can vary from person to person and may include:
- Nervousness or irritability
- Imaging tests, such as a thyroid scan, ultrasound, or radioactive iodine uptake test. A radioactive iodine uptake test measures how much radioactive iodine your thyroid takes up from your blood after you swallow a small amount of it.
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Surgical Removal Of The Thyroid Gland Or Nodule
Also known as a thyroidectomy, surgery to remove the thyroid can be an effective and permanent treatment for hyperthyroidism.
A potential downside of the surgical approach is that there is a small risk of injury to structures near the thyroid gland in the neck, including the nerve to the voice box . The incidence of this is about 1%. Other possible complications include hypocalcemia and airway obstruction, though both occur in under 5% of surgeries.
Many surgeons send their patients home the day after surgery. Of course, this depends on the underlying health of the patient and their age, among other factors. Some surgeons now are even treating partial thyroidectomy as an outpatient procedure, where healthy patients go home a few hours after the surgery.
Like radioactive iodine treatment, thyroid surgery often results in This is true even when only part of the thyroid is removed, called a .
When hypothyroidism occurs after treatment of an overactive thyroid gland, it can be effectively treated with , a synthetic form of thyroid hormone thats usually taken as one small pill a day. When used in the correct dose, levothyroxine can be safely taken for the remainder of a persons life.
What Causes An Overactive Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is found 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 such as heart rate and body temperature, and help convert food into energy to keep the body going.
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 being Graves’ disease, in which the body’s immune system targets the thyroid gland and causes it to produce too much of the thyroid hormones.
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Heart Palpitations Or Irregular Heartbeat
Your thyroid hormone directly affects your heart. So, when hyperthyroidism increases your heart rate, you can experience palpitations and abnormal heart rhythm, also known as atrial fibrillation. Needless to say, anything that puts your heart at risk should be taken seriously and addressed immediately.
Causes Of High Tsh Levels
Thyroid hormones operate on a negative feedback loop. Low thyroxine levels indicate to the pituitary gland to produce more TSH, but more TSH can further decrease thyroxine levels. Therefore, any issues that cause hypothyroidism, will in turn affect production from the pituitary gland.
One of the most common causes of hypothyroidism with a high TSH level is chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. White blood cells begin to attack the thyroid gland, which decreases the amount of thyroid hormone it produces.
Other things that affect T4 levels, ultimately affecting TSH levels, include:
- Hormonal changes from hormonal birth control or a shift in estrogen levels
- Medications that cause thyroid dysfunction, like amiodarone or tyrosine kinase inhibitors
- Injury to the thyroid gland from radiation therapy
- Partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland
While the causes of thyroid diseases are widely researched and understood, it is less clear what can cause the elevated TSH levels if the pituitary gland is the source of the issue. One possible cause of elevated TSH levels are TSH-secreting adenomas. These are tumors on the pituitary that independently produce TSH, stimulating the thyroid gland to produce T4 and T3. However, these tumors are rare.
Swelling of the pituitary gland can also cause malfunction and hormonal imbalance, potentially affecting TSH levels. However, the condition is rare and usually affects other hormones produced by the pituitary.
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Spotlight On Aging: Hyperthyroidism In Older People
Hyperthyroidism affects about the same percentage of older people as younger peopleabout 1%. However, hyperthyroidism is often more serious among older people because they tend to have other disorders as well.
Hyperthyroidism in older people often results from Graves disease. Almost as often, hyperthyroidism is caused by the gradual growth of many small lumps in the thyroid gland .
Some medications can cause hyperthyroidism as well. The most common is amiodarone, a medication used to treat heart disease but which may stimulate or damage the thyroid gland.
Hyperthyroidism can cause many vague symptoms that can be attributed to other conditions. Typically, symptoms are different in older and younger people.
Among older people, the most common symptoms are weight loss and fatigue. The heart rate may or may not be increased, and the eyes usually do not bulge. Older people are also more likely to have abnormal heart rhythms , other heart problems , and constipation.
Occasionally, older people sweat profusely, become nervous and anxious, and have hand tremors and frequent bowel movements or diarrhea.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Graves’ Disease
Kids and teens with Graves’ disease might notice that:
- they’re more tired than usual
- they have lots of trouble sleeping
- they lose weight
- their heart is beating very fast
- their hands shake
- they have a lot of trouble focusing
Girls with Graves’ disease sometimes notice that they have fewer menstrual cycles. Over time, many people notice that their thyroid glands are enlarged.
Some people with Graves’ disease have troubles with their eyes itching, burning, redness, and sometimes trouble seeing normally. Sometimes they feel pressure behind the eyes, feel their eyes bulging, or see double. This is because the antibodies that make the thyroid overactive also cause and swelling behind the eyes. When this happens, it’s called Graves’ eye disease.
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Inflammation Of The Thyroid Gland
Hypothyroidism often results from previous or ongoing inflammation of the thyroid gland, which leaves a large percentage of the cells of the thyroid damaged or dead and therefore incapable of producing sufficient hormone.
The most common type of thyroid inflammationand the most common cause of hypothyroidismis a condition called autoimmune thyroiditis, also known as or Hashimotos disease. This is a form of thyroid inflammation caused by a persons own immune system.
The Tests You Need For A Diagnosis Of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is sometimes discovered during an annual physical. Other patients may specifically see their doctor if they start experiencing any of the above symptoms especially rapid heartbeat and unintentional weight loss.
Sometimes these symptoms may be related to an entirely separate health condition, so its important to see your doctor to rule these out. To check for hyperthyroidism, your doctor may perform any of the following procedures:
Physical Exam Your doctor will examine your thyroid gland as you swallow, to determine whether its enlarged, tender, or bumpy.
Your doctor may also check for tremors in your hands, overactive reflexes, changes in your eyes, a rapid heartbeat, or warm and moist skin.
Blood Test Blood tests that measure levels of thyroxine and triiodothyronine and thyroid-stimulating hormone , among other labs, may be used to diagnose hyperthyroidism.
The first step is to measure TSH levels. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in your brain, which sends signals to the thyroid gland to make hormones. Its a negative feedback loop: Typically, a low TSH level implies your thyroid gland is releasing too much thyroxine, which is suppressing the pituitary TSH secretion this is whats called primary hyperthyroidism. This may be because of excess thyroid hormones in the body, which may indicate that your thyroid is overactive. TSH is especially important to measure in people who dont necessarily have the classic symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
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How Is Graves’ Disease Treated
Doctors usually treat Graves’ disease with anti-thyroid medicines. These medicines slow the release of thyroid hormones from the gland. They usually bring hormone levels down to normal within a couple of months.
Many people with Graves’ disease need to take anti-thyroid medicines for a long time to control the condition sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Some might need other treatment if anti-thyroid medicines don’t help or cause side effects, or if the disease is very hard to control. In these cases, two permanent treatment options can be used: radioactive iodine treatment and surgery.
Radioactive iodine is the most commonly used permanent treatment for Graves’ disease. RAI damages the thyroid gland so that it can’t make too much thyroid hormone. This doesn’t harm other parts of the body. The RAI treatment is taken in capsules or mixed with a glass of water. The thyroid gland quickly absorbs the RAI from the bloodstream and, within a few months, the gland shrinks and symptoms slowly disappear.
Surgery to remove most of the thyroid gland is called a thyroidectomy. It’s done in a hospital under general anesthesia, so the person is asleep and feels nothing. A small incision in the lower central part of the neck usually leaves a thin scar. It’s common to have some pain for a few days after the surgery, but most people feel much better within a few days.
How Is Postpartum Thyroiditis Treated
Treatment for postpartum thyroiditis depends on the phase of the disease and what symptoms you have. For example, if you get symptoms of hyperthyroidism in the first phase, your treatment may include medicines to slow down the heart rate.
In most women who have postpartum thyroiditis, the thyroid returns to normal within 12 to 18 months after symptoms start. But if you have a history of postpartum thyroiditis, your risk is higher for developing permanent hypothyroidism within 5 to 10 years.5
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Is Graves Disease The Same As Hyperthyroidism
Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to and is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, but theyre not the same thing. While all patients with Graves disease have hyperthyroidism, patients with hyperthyroidism may not necessarily have Graves disease .
In Graves disease, the body makes an antibody called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin , which causes the thyroid gland to make too much thyroid hormone . Graves disease runs in families and is more commonly found in women.
Possible Causes Of Hypothyroidism
There is no one cause of hypothyroidism, nor isthere always a direct linear path between one of the precipitating events andits onset. However, it is important to know the potential causes so that youcan connect the dots with possible symptoms.
Major causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Hashimotos thyroiditis. This autoimmune disease produces antibodies that attack the tissues of the thyroid, causing it to produce less thyroid hormone.
- Medication. Certain medications, including lithium, can lower thyroid hormone production.
- Hyperthyroidism treatment. A number of treatments for hyperthyroidism, including radioactive iodine treatment, can impair thyroid function.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy for conditions unrelated to the thyroid may cause the thyroid to shrink.
There are a few other possible causes, includingiodine disorders and some pregnancy-related risks. Well take a look at thedangers of the latter just below. But it is important to know that if you fallinto any of these risk categories, the seemingly-mild symptoms might be so muchmore.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Postpartum Thyroiditis
The hyperthyroid phase often has no symptomsor only mild ones. Symptoms may include irritability, trouble dealing with heat, tiredness, trouble sleeping, and fast heartbeat.
Symptoms of the hypothyroid phase may be mistaken for the baby bluesthe tiredness and moodiness that sometimes occur after the baby is born. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may also include trouble dealing with cold dry skin trouble concentrating and tingling in your hands, arms, feet, or legs. If these symptoms occur in the first few months after your baby is born or you develop postpartum depression, talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
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Cysts Or Nodules In The Thyroid Gland
Nodules or cysts in the thyroid gland can affect its function and cause too little T4 and T3 to be produced. This has the effect of increased secretion of TSH which can cause levels to increase above 4.0 mIU/L.
The journal Medical Clinics of North America reports that testing for high levels of TSH is essential in monitoring thyroid nodules. Blood serum tests for TSH are usually combined with ultrasound scans to check for cancerous cells in the thyroid. Doctors say that constant monitoring is essential because low T4 in the blood along with normal or high TSH can increase the risk that nodules become malignant.16
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What Causes Graves Disease
With Graves disease, your immune system makes an antibody called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin that attaches to your thyroid cells. TSI acts like thyroid-stimulating hormone , a hormone made in your pituitary gland that tells your thyroid how much thyroid hormone to make. TSI causes your thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone.
Heavy Or Irregular Periods
Both irregular and heavy menstrual bleeding are linked to hypothyroidism.
One study showed that about 40% of women with low thyroid hormone experienced increasing menstrual irregularity or heavy bleeding in the last year, compared to 26% of women with normal thyroid levels .
In another study, 30% of women with hypothyroidism had irregular and heavy periods. These women had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism after other symptoms had caused them to get tested .
Thyroid hormone interacts with other hormones that control the menstrual cycle, and abnormal levels of it can disrupt their signals. Also, thyroid hormone directly affects the ovaries and uterus.
There are several problems besides hypothyroidism that can cause heavy or irregular periods. If you have irregular or heavy periods that disrupt your lifestyle, consider talking with a gynecologist before worrying about your thyroid.
Summary: Heavy periods or irregular cycles that are worse than usual could be caused by a medical condition, including hypothyroidism. Its best to talk to a gynecologist about them.
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Treatments For High Tsh Levels
If your TSH level is high, the treatment is usually to prescribe pure synthetic T4 , which is a manufactured version of the T4 hormone your thyroid produces. If your T3 level is low, the doctor can give you Liothyronine, which is only a short-term treatment for low T3 levels.
Balancing your thyroid hormone levels, including T4 and T3, should restore the feedback loop to the pituitary gland, prompting it to produce less TSH.
Thyroid Surgeons In Nashville & Middle Tn
If you and your doctor decide that surgery is the treatment you need. Come visit The Surgical Clinic. We have many providers in Nashville, Smyrna and throughout Middle Tennessee who can give you the care you need. All of our board-certified surgeons are highly trained individuals and have many years of experience.
You can meet our surgeons who offer thyroid and parathyroid surgery, as well as Dr. Taylor who performs scarless thyroid and parathyroid surgery.
Give us a call, and set up a consultation today. Thyroid awareness month is in January and this event helps many Americans identify a thyroid condition they have been enduring. Our surgeons in Tennessee can screen you for thyroid problems you may suspect.
What Medication Treats Hypothyroidism
The thyroid gland produces two hormones: thyroxine and triiodothyronine . Similarly, thyroid hormone replacement medication also comes in T4 and T3 formulations. In a healthy thyroid gland, the inactive T4 hormone is released into circulation and then converted by the body into the active T3 hormone. Often, treatment for thyroid replacement starts with T4-only formulations, assuming that the body can successfully do the conversion independently.
Suppose your body has a hard time converting T4 to T3, or you take an interfering medication. In that case, standard T4 medicines may not be sufficient for you. For the few patients who do not feel completely normal taking a synthetic preparation of T4 alone, the addition of T3 may be of benefit.
Those who are interested in a more natural approach may prefer combination therapies. There are two main types of combination thyroid medications desiccated and compounded.
- Natural desiccated thyroid comes from the dried thyroid glands of pigs.
- Compounded thyroid medication is a personalized medication in which drug ingredients are combined, mixed, or altered to solve specific patient needs.
Each person is unique with individual sensitivities. Our bodies will not all react the same way to a specific medication or dosage. It usually takes a few weeks to see a remarkable improvement in your symptoms when you start thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Your doctor may need to adjust your dosing to reach a therapeutic level.