Is It Possible To Gain Weight If You Have An Overactive Thyroid
Something that can be confusing to patients is the fact that it is possible to have an overactive thyroid but also experience weight gain.
This is confusing because an overactive thyroid should lead to weight loss, at least thats one of the main symptoms associated with this condition.
So how is it possible to gain weight?
The answer comes when we discuss how an overactive thyroid is treated.
The treatment for hyperthyroidism or excessive thyroid hormone production is to BLOCK this from happening.
What happens if you block thyroid hormone production and conversion?
You turn an overactive thyroid into an UNDERactive thyroid .
And this makes sense if you think about it for a minute:
The goal when treating an overactive thyroid is to block how much thyroid hormone your body is using.
But is your Doctor going to be able to perfectly balance thyroid hormone production and conversion in your body with medication?
And the logic goes that as long as you are not overactive its okay to be a little bit underactive.
But the problem with having an underactive thyroid is that you potentially switch from losing weight to gaining weight.
So the weight gain is from the TREATMENT of your thyroid, not secondary to the overactive thyroid itself.
Its better to think about weight gain as a consequence of treatment rather than a side effect or symptom of having an overactive thyroid.
Eating A Low Iodine Diet
You will likely have to read a lot of labels when you’re limiting your iodine. On a low iodine diet, you should limit your iodine consumption to less than 50 micrograms a day, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
You won’t be reading labels for the amount of iodine contained in a food, however. Most food labels don’t list the amount of iodine. So you’ll need to knowwhich foods and ingredients to be wary of.
The best foods to eat are fresh, homemade foods, vegetables and fruits for hyperthyroidism, according to the University of Wisconsin. Fresh herbs, dried herbs and seasonings are also good, as long as they are not made with salt. While saltwater fish are high in iodine, freshwater fish are acceptable. Unsalted nuts and unsalted nut butters are good.
Grains, cereal and pasta are fine as long as they’re not processed with iodized salt. Sugar, jelly, jam and natural honey are good. Dark chocolate processed without salt, dairy or soy is good.
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Hypothyroidism Vs Hyperthyroidism: Whats The Difference
The difference all comes down to the prefix in each word: hyper- means over or exaggeration, while hypo- means under or beneath. When it comes to -thyroidism, hyper- means an overactive thyroid gland, and hypo- means an underactive one.
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, can actually be caused by treatments for hyperthyroidism, since their whole purpose is to decrease thyroid gland activity. Those treatments, however, can tip the balance too far. Conversely, hyperthyroidism can be caused by taking too much thyroid hormone replacement medication to treat an underactive thyroid.
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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.
What Clinical Studies For Hyperthyroidism Are Looking For Participants
You can view a filtered list of clinical studies on hyperthyroidism that are open and recruiting at www.ClinicalTrials.gov. You can expand or narrow the list to include clinical studies from industry, universities, and individuals however, the NIH does not review these studies and cannot ensure they are safe. Always talk with your health care provider before you participate in a clinical study.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can vary from person to person and may include4
- weight loss despite an increased appetite
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- nervousness, irritability, trouble sleeping, fatigue
- shaky hands, muscle weakness
- frequent bowel movements
- an enlargement in the neck, called a goiter
In older adults, hyperthyroidism is sometimes mistaken for depression or dementia. Older adults may have different symptoms, such as loss of appetite or withdrawal from people, than younger adults with hyperthyroidism. You may want to ask your doctor about hyperthyroidism if you or your loved one shows these symptoms.
Too Much Thyroid Hormone Medicine
Some people who take thyroid hormone medicine for hypothyroidism may take too much. If you take thyroid hormone medicine, see your doctor at least once a year to have your thyroid hormone levels checked. You may need to adjust your dose if your doctor finds your thyroid hormone level is too high.
Some other medicines may also interact with thyroid hormone medicine and raise hormone levels. If you take thyroid hormone medicine, ask your doctor about interactions when starting new medicines.
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What Does It Mean To Have An Overactive Thyroid
The thyroid is a gland that sits at the front of the neck, and it releases hormones to regulate how your body uses energy. If your thyroid is overactive, it’s making too many of these hormones. Certain functions within your body will speed up, such as your breathing, heart rate, and metabolism. Many people who have an overactive thyroid may also experience symptoms such as:
Fertility and menstrual cycle issues
Frequent bowel movements
Thinning or weakened bone structure
An irregular heartbeat
If you are experiencing these symptoms or have a family history of hyperthyroidism, speak to your doctor about checking your thyroid.
Treatments For Eye Problems
If you have thyroid eye disease but your symptoms arenât severe, you can usually manage them by avoiding bright lights and wind, raising the head of your bed, and using eye drops. Your doctor may suggest a selenium supplement. In some cases, your doctor might prescribe a medication called teprotumumab-trbw . Itâs FDA-approved to treat the symptoms of thyroid eye disease. They might also suggest steroids or other medications to help control the swelling behind your eyes.
For some people, especially those with severe thyroid eye disease, surgery is the best option. There are two kinds that can help severe symptoms:
- Orbital decompression surgery involves removing the bone between your sinuses and eye socket. It can make more room for your eyes so that they go back to their normal position. It can help improve your vision. There are risks to the surgery, including double vision.
- Eye muscle surgery is sometimes used to correct double vision. It works by cutting muscles in your eyeball that are covered in scar tissue. Thyroid eye disease can cause this. The cut muscles are then reattached in a different position, which can put your eyes back in proper alignment. You may need this surgery more than once to get the right results.
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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.
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.
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When To Speak To A Healthcare Professional
If you are experiencing symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, make an appointment with your primary care physician. They can perform a physical examination, blood tests, and imaging scans to determine if a thyroid issue or another underlying cause is causing your symptoms.
If you have an overactive thyroid, your doctor may recommend more tests to understand why it’s creating too many thyroid hormones. They may also recommend treatments such as medication, dietary changes, or surgery.
Surgery For An Overactive Thyroid
Surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid may be recommended if:
- your thyroid gland is severely swollen
- you have severe eye problems resulting from an overactive thyroid
- you cannot have any of the other treatments
- your symptoms come back after trying other treatments
Removing the entire thyroid gland is normally recommended. This cures an overactive thyroid and means there’s no chance of the symptoms coming back.
But as a result, you’ll need to take medication for the rest of your life to make up for not having a thyroid. These are the same medications used to treat an underactive thyroid.
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Treatment And Medication For Hyperthyroidism
An overactive thyroid gland is more difficult to control than an underactive one. With the latter, treatment usually involves taking hormones to make up for the missing amounts. But it can be more challenging to stop the thyroid gland from making too much hormone, as seen in hyperthyroidism.
Your overall treatment plan may depend on your age and the severity of your condition. The following treatments are effective for hyperthyroidism.
Preparing For An Appointment
You’ll likely start by seeing your primary care provider. But you may be referred directly to a specialist in hormone disorders, called an endocrinologist. If you have eye problems, you may be referred to an eye doctor, also called an ophthalmologist.
Here’s some information to help you get ready for your appointment and to know what to expect from your health care provider.
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What You Can Do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there’s anything you need to do to get ready for it, such as not eat or drink for a certain amount of time.
- Write down any symptoms you have, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medicines, vitamins or supplements you’re taking, especially any supplements or vitamins containing biotin.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who is there with you may remember information you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your health care provider.
Writing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your health care provider. For hyperthyroidism, some questions to ask include:
- What’s the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes?
- What tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or long lasting?
- What treatment options are available, and which do you recommend for me?
- I have other health conditions. How can I manage these conditions together?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you’re prescribing?
- Do you have brochures or other printed material I can take? What websites do you recommend?
Don’t hesitate to ask other questions.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is the cause of my hyperthyroidism?
- Do I have Graves disease?
- What types of food and medicine contain high levels of iodine?
- What is the best treatment?
- Will I need to take medicine? If so, for how long and what are the side effects?
- Will I need surgery? If so, what are the benefits and risks?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to relieve my symptoms?
- Am I at risk for related health problems?
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What To Expect From Your Doctor
Your health care provider is likely to ask you some questions, including:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, makes your symptoms better?
- What, if anything, makes your symptoms worse?
- Do members of your family have thyroid disease?
- Have you had any recent radiology scans that used intravenous contrast?
How Do Doctors Treat Hyperthyroidism
Your doctor will treat your hyperthyroidism to bring your thyroid hormone levels back to normal. Treating the disease will prevent long-term health problems, and it will relieve uncomfortable symptoms. No single treatment works for everyone.
Your treatment depends on whats causing your hyperthyroidism and how severe it is. When recommending a treatment, your doctor will consider
- When part of the thyroid is removed, your thyroid hormone levels may return to normal.
When part of your thyroid is removed, you may develop hypothyroidism after surgery and need to take thyroid hormone medicine. If your whole thyroid is removed, you will need to take thyroid hormone medicine for life. After surgery, your doctor will continue to check your thyroid hormone levels.
Researchers are looking into new ways to treat hyperthyroidism. An example is radiofrequency ablation , a new approach to treating thyroid nodules that cause hyperthyroidism.5,6 RFA is used mainly in cases where medicines or surgery wont help, and is not yet widely available.
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Are There Complications Of Hyperthyroidism
Thyroid storm is a rare but serious complication of hyperthyroidism. It happens when your thyroid makes and releases a large amount of thyroid hormone in a short amount of time. Thyroid storm is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of thyroid storm include:
- High fever a temperature between 104 degrees to 106 degrees Fahrenheit is common.
- Rapid heart rate that can exceed 140 beats per minute.
- Feeling agitated, irritable and/or anxious.
- Congestive heart failure.
- Loss of consciousness.
A complication of Graves disease, one of the causes of hyperthyroidism, is called Graves eye disease . This condition can usually not be prevented. Graves eye disease can cause the following complications:
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.
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Whats Special About University Of Michigans Treatment Of Graves Disease
UM is one of the few places in the country that has a multidisciplinary group dedicated to the treatment of patients with Graves disease. UMs multidisciplinary group consists of endocrinologists, endocrine surgeons, ophthalmologists, nuclear medicine physicians, rheumatologists and psychiatric professionals. Our group sees Graves disease patients from around the country and is involved with one of the most well-known national organizations concentrating on helping patients and families coping with Graves disease and Graves eye disease. Our group routinely publishes papers with new research results on Graves disease.
The ophthalmologists in our group specialize in the treatment of Graves eye disease which can require complex management. Most ophthalmologists have little experience treating patients with Graves disease and Graves eye disease. For those patients with Graves eye disease, it is the severity of the eye disease which drives the selection of the type of treatment for hyperthyroidism if these two problems occur together.
While those patients with no Graves eye disease or only mild eye disease may be candidates for any of the three types of treatments for hyperthyroidism, those who have moderate to severe eye disease are often referred for surgical thyroidectomy as RAI has a higher chance of worsening the eye disease than surgery does.