Doctor's Notes on Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism refers to the presence of an overactive thyroid gland or the presence of elevated levels of thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland plays an important role in regulating numerous metabolic processes throughout the body. Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Many other health problems, including taking an excess of thyroid hormone medication, can cause elevated levels of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream.
Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include increased heart rate, weight loss, heart palpitations, frequent bowel movements, fine or brittle hair, sleep problems, depression, thinning skin, fatigue, and irregular vaginal bleeding or problems with menstruation in women. Other symptoms can include agitation, restlessness, intolerance to heat, tremors, and anxiety. Graves’ disease can also be associated with eye disease and apparent bulging of the eyes.
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Thyroid FAQsThe thyroid gland is part of the endocrine (hormone) system. The thyroid gland produces two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3). Diseases of the thyroid gland include: hyperthyroidism, subacute thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, and thyroid nodules. Thyroid medications are used to treat thyroid disorders.
Thyroid MedicationsThyroid medications treat diseases of the thyroid, including hyperthyroidism (such as Graves' disease), hypothyroidism, thyroid disorders in pregnancy, post-partum thyroid disease, thyroid cancer, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and thyroid nodules. Thyroid medications replace thyroid hormone levels [L-thyroxine (or LT4), L-triiodothyronine (T3)] or suppress growth of thyroid tissue [propylthiouracil (PTU), methimazole], or control symptoms such as beta-blockers and iodide solutions.
Thyroid NodulesThyroid nodules are lumps that are either solid or fluid-filled. Thyroid nodules may be benign or malignant (cancerous). Thyroid nodules may be caused by goiters, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, thyroid cysts, benign thyroid tumors, malignant thyroid tumors, or thyroid cancer. Treatment depends upon the type and cause of the thyroid nodule.
Thyroid ProblemsDiseases of the thyroid gland can lead to hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid nodules, thyroid goiters, or thyroid cancer. Symptoms of both hypo- and hyperthyroidism-related conditions include constipation, fatigue, weight gain, cold or heat intolerance, to coma. Treatment depends upon the thyroid condition.
Thyroid StormThyroid storm is caused by too much thyroid hormone in the body. Thyroid storm is a medical emergency. Precipitating factors for thyroid storm include infections, thyroid surgery, stopping thyroid medications, pregnancy, heart attack, and cardiac emergencies. Symptoms of thyroid storm include palpitations, increased body temperature, chest pain, anxiety, weakness, disorientation, and heart failure. Thyroid storm is a medical emergency, and anyone experiencing symptoms of thyroid storm should proceed to an emergency department promptly.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.