Living with Hyperthyroidism

Helping you to understand Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. This small gland has a big effect on your body. The hormones it produces affect almost all bodily processes, including metabolism, fertility and sexual function, internal thermostat, mood, and more.

The American Thyroid Association estimates that more than 12% of Americans will develop a thyroid condition at some point in their life, although up to 60% of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Women are more likely than men to have thyroid problems, with around one in every eight women developing a problem at some point in her life.

Hyperthyroidism, in which too much thyroid hormone circulates in the body, is a common thyroid condition, affecting more than one in every hundred Americans. While there are many effective treatments for hyperthyroidism, uncontrolled hyperthyroidism can lead to serious, even life-threatening problems. Read on to learn more about what hyperthyroidism is, what the symptoms are, and how to live with this condition.

How the Thyroid Works

The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system. The endocrine system is the network of glands throughout your body that produces hormones – powerful chemicals that help to turn on or off all of the various functions in the body. The thyroid is a particularly important element of the endocrine system, producing hormones that affect brain, heart and kidney function, as well as skin maintenance, digestion, fertility, temperature regulation, muscle strength, and more.

In order to produce thyroid hormones, the thyroid uses iodine from our food to create two hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which affect the function of all the cells in the body. The thyroid also produces a more targeted hormone, calcitonin, which helps regulate the amount of calcium in your blood.

The pituitary gland, which is located in the brain, tells the thyroid how much hormone to produce by releasing thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH). When everything is functioning as it should, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland carefully monitor hormone levels in the body. The pituitary releases TSH to stimulate the thyroid to produce just the right amount of thyroid hormone. These hormones then circulate in the blood and are taken up by various organs to help run just about every system in the body.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

While the thyroid gland usually keeps our metabolism and other functions humming along correctly, sometimes it goes haywire. When the thyroid produces too little hormone, it causes hyp o thyroidism, in which everything in the body slows down. People with hypothyroidism might gain weight feel cold, fight fatigue and depression, and more.

In contrast, with hyp-er-thyroidism, too much thyroid hormone is present in the body, causing bodily functions to speed up. Symptoms include:

Weight loss, despite increased appetite
Diarrhea
Lighter or missed periods
Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and/or a pounding heart (palpitations)
Anxiety, irritability and/or nervousness
Uncontrolled sweating and heat intolerance
Difficulty sleeping
Thin, brittle hair
Fatigue
Red, swollen skin on the shins and feet

In some cases, people with hyperthyroidism caused by an autoimmune condition known as Graves’ disease will develop an eye condition known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy. In this condition, the same autoimmune antibodies that cause the thyroid to overproduce thyroid hormone also cause inflammation in the tissues behind the eye. This can cause bulging eyes, dry eyes, watery eyes, and eye pain and inflammation.

Graves’ ophthalmopathy usually develops soon after hyperthyroid symptoms, but it can develop years later. In some people, eye irritation will be the first sign of a thyroid problem. Many cases of Graves’ ophthalmopathy will resolve on their own, but all cases should be monitored by an eye doctor, as it can cause vision loss in extreme cases

If hyperthyroidism goes untreated, a number of complications can result, including:

Heart problems – Hyperthyroidism increases the heart rate. Over time, this stresses the heart, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.

Brittle bones – When your body has high thyroid hormone levels, your bones can’t properly absorb calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis.

Thyroid storm (thyrotoxic crisis) – In rare cases, the body produces far too much thyroid hormone, leading to a potentially life-threatening condition marked by rapid heart rate, sweating, high fever, and confusion. Thyroid storm requires immediate medical treatment.

Who Gets Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism can develop in anyone at any age, but it occurs most often in women, and the risk rises after age 60. In older people, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism can be subtle, and doctors sometimes mistake it for depression or dementia.

Risk factors for hyperthyroidism include:

..Health problems including pernicious anemia (a vitamin B12 deficiency), type 1 diabetes, and primary adrenal insufficiency, a disorder that affects the hormones
..Being female
..Being older than age 60
..Consuming large amounts of iodine from medications or food
..Recent pregnancy
..Extreme stress or trauma, which can trigger Graves’ disease in people with a genetic susceptibility

While some people may be more at risk of hyperthyroidism than others, it’s possible for anyone to get it. Hyperthyroidism has a number of causes, including:

Graves’ disease, mentioned above – an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing it to overproduce T4. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.

Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules, which occur when a small piece of the thyroid malfunctions, creating small, benign (non-cancerous) nodules or lumps. These nodules pump out thyroid hormones, and do not respond to TSH levels.

Thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, which can occur after pregnancy. Thyroiditis can also be caused by an infection or virus. In thyroiditis, the inflamed thyroid begins to leak stored thyroid hormone into the bloodstream.

Excess iodine consumption. The thyroid makes thyroid hormones out of iodine. If someone consumes too much iodine, it may spur the production of excess thyroid hormone. Iodine is present in some medications, including some heart medications and cough syrups. Seaweed and seaweed supplements also contain iodine, as does table salt with added iodine.

Excess thyroid medication. People who take medication for hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone) can experience hyperthyroid symptoms if their dose of medication is too high. It’s important that if you are taking medication for hypothyroidism that you have your thyroid levels checked from time to time, as your levels – and the dose of medication that you require – can change over time.

Hyperthyroidism Diagnosis

Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed by a simple blood test that gauges your thyroid hormone levels. Usually, your level of T4 will be high and TSH will be low. Once your doctor has confirmed that your thyroid hormone levels are too high, they will conduct further tests to find out why. These tests involve various methods of imaging the thyroid. Tests include:

...Radioiodine uptake test, in which you swallow a small amount of radioactive iodine, and your thyroid is checked at intervals over the next day to see how much collects in your thyroid gland.

If your thyroid takes up a large amount of iodine, it shows that your thyroid is overactive, suggesting either Graves’ disease or thyroid nodules. If your thyroid doesn’t absorb much of the iodine, then your thyroid isn’t in hyperdrive. Instead, the cause of your hyperthyroid symptoms might be thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, causing thyroid hormone to leak into your bloodstream.

Thyroid scan, in which a small amount of radioactive iodine is injected into your arm, and then a special camera takes pictures of your throat. This produces pictures that show your doctors exactly what is happening within your thyroid.

Thyroid ultrasound, which uses an ultrasound machine to take images of your thyroid. This test doesn’t involve any radiation, which may be important for some patients – particularly those who are or who may become pregnant in the near future.

NOTE: While most doctors will, probably not do a full thyroid panel, You may want to ask for one so that your diagnosis is more reliable.
A full thyroid panel includes the following;

TSH
Total and Free T4
Total and Free T3
Reverse T3
Anti-TPO
Anti-thyroglobulin

Treatment For Hyperthyroidism

The treatment for hyperthyroidism depends on what is causing the problem, as well as your age, health history, and preferences. Treatments include:

Radioactive iodine. Radioactive iodine will be absorbed by the thyroid gland, causing it to shrink. This treatment will help your symptoms disappear within a few months. In some cases, though, patients are left with low levels of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and must take thyroid hormone pills.

Anti-thyroid medications. These medications can bring down your thyroid hormone levels within a few weeks or months. Some people may need to take the pills for a year or more. In many cases, one course of pills is enough to resolve hyperthyroidism, but some people may have recurring symptoms and require ongoing treatment.

Thyroid surgery. Thyroid surgery involves removing thyroid tissue. Surgery used to be common, but other treatments such as medication and radioactive iodine are safer. Still, surgery is still used in some cases where other treatments can’t be used.

The risks of surgery include damage to the vocal cords or other delicate parts of the throat. After surgery, most patients will require thyroid hormone medication for life.

Beta blockers. Beta blockers don’t cure hyperthyroidism, but they believe they can make the symptoms resolve quickly. For that reason, they are sometimes given to patients to make them feel better while other treatments are working on solving the underlying problem.

While family doctors can diagnose and treat hyperthyroidism, sometimes they will refer patients to an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists specialize in the endocrine system and can help with conditions caused by glandular problems or hormonal imbalances.

With all the above being said.. You may also want to consult a Naturopath Doctor. Here is a link you may find of interest…………….. Dr. Brighten

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