Hyperthyroidism: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

If the thyroid gland is working harder than usual, hyperthyroidism may be present. The increased hormone production causes symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, restlessness, and insomnia.

This can usually be managed well with medication. But what about during pregnancy or in children?

Hyperthyroidism: Are Your Hormones Going Crazy?

Strictly speaking, hyperthyroidism is not a disease, but a symptom.

This leads to other complaints. The technical term “hyperthyroidism” is composed of the Greek prefix “hyper”, which means “over” in German, and the term “thyroid”, which stands for the thyroid gland.

Hyperthyroidism is common. Women are affected more often than men, and older people are more often than younger people.

Various causes can be behind hyperthyroidism, sometimes temporary.

Functions Of The Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland, located at the front of the neck, is used to produce thyroid hormones. These vital hormones are known as triiodothyronine (T3 for short) and thyroxine (T4 for short).

Hormone production also involves a third hormone: thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH for short, which handles the process of releasing hormones into the blood and is produced in the pituitary gland.

Thyroid hormones, which are produced by the thyroid gland from substances such as protein and iodine, regulate numerous functions of your body.

These include metabolic functions, but also aspects of the circulatory system and the psyche. You normally take in the required protein and iodine with your food.

If the thyroid gland produces too few or too many hormones due to disease, there is a disorder. Depending on its severity, this is referred to as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

The under function is also called hypothyroidism, while the over function – as mentioned – is known as hyperthyroidism.

Hormones Or Autonomy? Causes Of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs, for example, due to hormones in early pregnancy. Or it is based on too high a dosage of thyroid hormones, for example after a thyroidectomy.

In the case of thyroiditis, too, hormone production can temporarily go haywire and cause levels to skyrocket.

Rarely, thyroid cancer is responsible for increased hormone production. Common causes are Graves’ disease and autonomy of the thyroid gland.

Graves’ Disease: Attack On The Immune System

Graves’ disease is also known as Graves’ disease. It is an autoimmune disease: the thyroid tissue is attacked by a misdirected, endogenous immune system.

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As a result, its functionality is amplified. The organ produces too much thyroid hormone. The disease is considered the most common trigger of hyperthyroidism worldwide.

Like hyperthyroidism itself, the disease predominantly affects women. It often occurs in middle age and is triggered by genetic factors or similar autoimmune diseases such as diabetes.

Thyroid Autonomy: What’s Behind It?

Thyroid autonomy can also be behind the malfunction. In this case, the tissue of the thyroid gland and parts of the organ produce hormones independently of the control of the pituitary gland.

The body’s hormone requirements no longer play a role, and hormone production is uncontrolled. Thyroid autonomy is often triggered by chronic iodine deficiency.

This is why the disease occurs more frequently in areas with a deficient iodine supply.

Hormonal Upheaval During Pregnancy As A Cause

If you are pregnant, this could be the cause of sudden hyperthyroidism. In early pregnancy, it is linked to the formation of a certain hormone produced in the placenta.

If the HCG hormone is produced in an excessive amount, it will affect your thyroid gland. Excessive hormone production is often accompanied by the symptom of severe vomiting. It often affects pregnant women who are expecting twins.

Do I Have Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism can be easily detected on the basis of blood values. To do this, your existing thyroid hormones are determined in the blood. The doctor draws blood and sends it to a laboratory.

The TSH value and the values of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 are used to interpret the blood count:

If you have hyperthyroidism, your TSH level is usually lower than normal. This is because your pituitary gland produces less TSH when the thyroid is active.

The normal values are between 0.40 and 4.0 mU/l, depending on the sex and age of the patient and the reference range of the laboratory.

For the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, it is the other way around then for the TSH value: high values here indicate hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism is suspected at levels above 5.5 pg/ml (T3) or 18 ng/l (T4). If your levels are in these ranges, hyperthyroidism is likely.

Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism

Elevated thyroid hormone levels stimulate the body’s metabolism. This manifests itself in various symptoms.

Typical hyperthyroidism symptoms are:

  • General restlessness, nervousness.
  • Aggressiveness and mild irritability.
  • Sleep disturbances up to insomnia.
  • Trembling.
  • Depressive moods.
  • Sweaty, clammy skin.
  • Diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Palpitations and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Hair loss after pregnancy.
  • Muscle weakness and tremors.
  • Menstrual cramps.
  • High blood pressure.
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If iodine deficiency is found to be responsible for hyperthyroidism, enlarged thyroid gland is another typical symptom. This can be identified by a bulging area on the neck.

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms In Graves’ Disease

Hyperthyroidism caused by Graves’ disease is accompanied by hyperthyroidism symptoms that affect the eyes. These include:

  • Foreign body sensation in the eye.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Feeling of pressure around the eye or behind the eye.
  • Protruding eyeballs.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Visual disturbances (flickering or double vision).

Faint But Present: Hyperthyroidism Symptoms In The Elderly

If older people are affected, hyperthyroidism symptoms are usually less pronounced. Therefore, it is difficult to make a clear diagnosis in the elderly.

Often, palpitations or arrhythmias are the only hyperthyroidism symptoms. This is quickly blamed on other, physical ailments, which is why hyperthyroidism often goes unnoticed in the elderly.

When To See A Doctor With Hyperthyroidism?

If hyperthyroidism is suspected, you should not wait for the blood test.

Often the increased production of thyroid hormones is behind symptoms such as mood swings or irritability, which unknowingly might lead to a long odyssey with various therapists.

Hyperthyroidism symptoms such as insomnia or tremors also promote depression.

Also, sleep problems once caused by hyperthyroidism could quickly take on a life of their own and grow into a full-blown sleep disorder. It is also important to rule out serious causes such as thyroid cancer in the case of thyroid dysfunction.

Furthermore, in the case of hyperthyroidism caused by an autoimmune disease, the antibodies can stimulate the growth of the thyroid gland. A goiter would be the result.

The blood test at the doctor is done quickly, so there should be nothing to prevent it.

Within a few days – as soon as the result has arrived from the laboratory – it will provide information as to whether hyperthyroidism is present or whether further examinations are advisable.

Infertility: Is Hyperthyroidism To Blame?

Do you have an unfulfilled desire to have a child and show one or more of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism can be the cause of infertility in women and thus the reason why it has not yet worked out with the desire to have children. In this case, too, it is of course helpful to get clarification from a doctor at an early stage.

Pregnancy: Caution With Hyperthyroidism

If you are pregnant while suffering from hyperthyroidism, special caution is advised. As a result, premature birth or even miscarriage may occur if the dysfunction is not treated.

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Likewise, the risks of pregnancy poisoning or malformations of the unborn child increase.

Hyperthyroidism In Babies And Children

Hyperthyroidism can also occur in children. Newborns are often affected by genetic factors. In addition, the antibodies in Graves’ disease can be transferred to the unborn child if you as a mother suffer from this disease.

During pregnancy, therefore, the course can already be set unintentionally for your offspring to be affected.

Baby And Child: Hyperthyroidism Symptoms That Make You Sit Up And Take Notice

In children, the following hyperthyroidism symptoms occur in particular:

If you notice one or more of these potential hyperthyroidism symptoms, you should schedule a prompt doctor’s visit with your offspring. To detect congenital hyperthyroidism, newborn screening is performed.

The doctor takes a few drops of blood from your baby in the first few days of life. If hyperthyroidism is detected, it is usually treated with medication.

Unfortunately, prevention is only possible indirectly; in the case of autoimmune diseases, symptoms can be aggravated by stress. This should therefore be avoided.

Hyperthyroidism: How To Stop Hormone Production

There are various treatment methods to get hyperthyroidism under control. Classically, the treatment is carried out with medication. The drugs ensure that the amount of thyroid hormones produced is reduced.

In some cases, surgery is also an option, while radio-iodine therapy is recommended for other patients.

Medication For Hyperthyroidism

If your thyroid gland produces too many hormones, this activity can be inhibited or stopped by so-called thyrostatic drugs.

These drugs block the thyroid gland in several ways:

Inhibiting The Release Of Thyroid Hormones

Once thyroid hormones have been made, they are bound to proteins until they reach their target site in the body. In order to act there, enzymes must act on them. These enzymes are blocked by certain drugs.

Inhibition Of The Formation Of Thyroid Hormones

Other drugs kick in at an earlier stage. These agents prevent the incorporation of iodide into the hormones so that they become non-functional.

In the case of drugs that inhibit the release of hormones, an effect occurs very quickly. On the other hand, the drugs that stop the buildup of thyroid hormones have a somewhat delayed effect.

Regardless of the choice of drug, in most patients, the T3 and T4 levels decrease after a few weeks, or the TSH level is increased.

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Patients with Graves’ disease are an exception: if you are affected by this disease, you must take the medication for hyperthyroidism for at least one year.

In some cases, you can stop taking the medication after this period without the symptoms returning. However, some patients are spared this positive effect and have to resort to alternative therapies.

Surgery For Hyperthyroidism: Is It Really Necessary?

If you have already developed a large goiter or if thyroid cancer is suspected, surgery is often the recommended way out. Sometimes parts of the thyroid gland are removed.

However, if malignant tissue is present or the thyroid gland is affected by nodules, a predominant or complete removal may be necessary.

This results in little or no thyroid hormone being produced in the future, as opposed to the previous hyperthyroidism.

To prevent you from slipping into hypothyroidism with all its symptoms, you will receive thyroid medication for the rest of your life. These replace the function of the now restricted or missing thyroid gland.

Before the operation, your hormone metabolism must usually be brought into balance. It is, therefore, possible that you will first receive medication to curb the hyperfunction, and only then will the operation take place.

With Radiation Against The Hormone Excess: Radio-iodine Therapy

An alternative form of therapy is radio-iodine therapy, in which you are administered radioactive iodine. This is available in two dosage forms: Either as an injection or as a capsule that you have to swallow.

The intake of radio-iodine destroys cells that are responsible for the increased production of thyroid hormones. Gradually, the values decrease until – ideally – a normal T3, T4, and TSH level are reached.

What sounds dangerous is usually not, as long as radioiodine therapy is performed carefully by an expert. Your organs will not be damaged by the small range of the radiation, which is only a few millimeters.

The treatment is usually performed as an inpatient, as you should avoid close contact with other people for a few days.

Treatment During Pregnancy

If high hyperfunction is present during pregnancy, it is essential to stop it. This is important to reduce the risk of miscarriage or malformations in the child. Medications are used here.

However, the drugs must be taken under strict medical supervision and in the lowest dose. Radio-iodine therapy is not an option for pregnant women because of the radiation.



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