Hyperthyroidism, also known as an overactive thyroid, is a hormone imbalance affecting metabolism. It is caused by the overproduction of the thyroid hormone which in turn can be caused by several conditions, such as Graves disease, tumors of the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, testes or ovaries, inflammation of the thyroid, ingestion of excessive amounts of thyroid hormone and ingestion of excessive iodine. Graves disease is the most common cause.
There are several symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism. These include weight loss regardless of an increased appetite, nervousness, sensitivity to heat, fatigue, muscle cramps, frequent bowel movements, irregular periods, thirst, insomnia, clammy skin, nausea/vomiting, itching, hair loss, the development of breasts in men, high blood pressure and bone pain.
When your doctor gives you a checkup he will probably be able to detect an enlarged thyroid gland or goiter. He will then refer you to do some laboratory tests which will determine whether you are suffering from an overactive thyroid. If the tests are positive, your doctor will proceed to find out the exact cause. The cause determines the course of treatment to be taken.
Common treatments include radioactive iodine, ablation, antithyroid medications, and in some cases surgery is needed. Other medications are given to control the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as rapid heartbeat, anxiety and sweating, until the condition is kept under control.
If you recognize most of the symptoms mentioned above, do not hesitate to consult your GP. If left untreated, hyperthyroidism could cause complications. There may be times where treatment of hyperthyroidism involves surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. Although hyperthyroidism can be grave if you leave it untreated, most people respond well once hyperthyroidism is diagnosed and treated.
If your thyroid is removed during surgery or destroyed by radiation, you must take thyroid hormone replacement pills for the remainder of your life. Medications called beta-blockers may be prescribed by your doctor to treat symptoms such as fast heart rate, anxiety, and sweating until the hyperthyroidism becomes manageable.