Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is making too much of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. It is also called an “overactive” thyroid state. The hormone thyroxine is a key hormone of the endocrine system. You can read about the functions of thyroxine here.
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism
- Weight loss
- Increased anxiety
- Hand tremors
- Neck swelling
- Feeling hot and sweaty
- Eye discomfort in some people
- Bulging of the eyes in severe cases
- In women, irregular periods and difficulty conceiving
- In men, it can rarely cause erectile dysfunction
Causes of hyperthyroidism
- Graves’ disease or Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Toxic nodular goiter
- Rarely, it can occur after taking certain medicines like amiodarone
- Viral thyroiditis: a viral infection can sometimes cause temporary hyperthyroidism. When the viral infection subsides, the thyroid function usually goes back to normal.
Treatment of Hyperthyroidism
Carbimazole and Propyl Thio Uracil are the main medicines used to treat hyperthyroidism. They reduce the production of the thyroxine hormone. As a result, the thyroid levels go back to normal although this can take some weeks.
In some patients, radiation treatment is used. In hyperthyroidism radiation treatment involves swallowing a tablet that contains radio-active iodine. This iodine is then concentrated in the thyroid gland. The radiation gradually destroys the thyroid cells over a number of weeks. This leads to a permanent loss of thyroid function. As a result most patients will need to take the thyroxine hormone as a tablet for the rest of their life.
In some cases, part or all of the thyroid gland is removed by surgery to bring the thyroid hormone levels down. Fortunately, this is only necessary in the minority of patients who have this condition. If only half or less of the thyroid gland is removed, the remaining gland may be able to make enough of the thyroid hormone. However if not, patients will need to start thyroxine tablets for the rest of their life.