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HYPERTHYROIDISM

Hyperthyroidism


The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroid’s job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.

Overactive thyroid (known as hyperthyroidism) is amongst the commonest thyroid disorders and could lead to fatality if not treated early. If there is too much thyroid hormone, every function of the body tends to speed up.

 It is not surprising then that some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are nervousness, irritability, increased sweating, heart racing, hand tremors, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, thinning of your skin, fine brittle hair and weakness in your muscles—especially in the upper arms and thighs. 

You may have more frequent bowel movements, but diarrhea is uncommon. You may lose weight despite a good appetite and, for women, menstrual flow may lighten and menstrual periods may occur less often. Since hyperthyroidism increases your metabolism, many individuals initially have a lot of energy. However, as the hyperthyroidism continues, the body tends to break down, so being tired is very common. 

In Graves’ Disease , which is the most common form of hyperthyroidism, the eyes may look enlarged because the upper lids are elevated. Sometimes, one or both eyes may bulge. Some patients have swelling of the front of the neck from an enlarged thyroid gland. Graves’ disease is caused by antibodies in the blood that turn on the thyroid and cause it to grow and secrete too much thyroid hormone. This type of hyperthyroidism tends to run in families and it occurs more often in young women. Little is known about why specific individuals get this disease.

Another type of hyperthyroidism is characterized by one or more nodules or lumps in the thyroid that may gradually grow and increase their activity so that the total output of thyroid hormone into the blood is greater than normal. This condition is known as toxic nodular or multinodular goiter. Ultrasound of the Neck or CT Scan is usually needed to diagnose this disease. 

The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism will be confirmed by laboratory tests that measure the amount of thyroid hormones— thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3)—and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. A high level of thyroid hormone in the blood plus a low level of TSH is common with an overactive thyroid gland.

If left untreated, the complications are many and these are some examples: Irregular heart beat and Stroke, Muscle wasting and weakness, Heart Failure and visual loss.

Because hyperthyroidism, especially Graves’ disease, may run in families, examinations of the members of your family may reveal other individuals with thyroid problems.


Written by Dr Hafaruzi Harun, Consultant Physician MSUMC