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Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism, also known as an overactive thyroid gland, is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland excretes an excessive amount of thyroid hormones. This overproduction creates more hormones than the body needs and causes many important bodily functions to speed up. The thyroid is the gland in the front of the neck that controls energy use, metabolism, heart and nervous system functions and other metabolic functions. An overproduction of thyroid hormones can lead to weight loss, irregular heartbeat and irritability. Hyperthyroidism is more common in people over the age of 60 and women are more likely than men to develop hyperthyroidism.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Grave's disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to overstimulate the thyroid, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. An overactive thyroid gland may also be caused by several different factors which may include:

  • Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules
  • Inflammation of the thyroid
  • Excessive iodine intake
  • Genetics

Hyperthyroidism may also be caused by excessive amounts of synthetic thyroid medication which may be taken to treat hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism causes a wide range of symptoms that may be different for each patient. Many symptoms of hyperthyroidism are similar to those of other diseases. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Nervousness or irritability
  • Increased appetite
  • Trembling hands and fingers
  • Sweating
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Swollen thyroid gland or goiter
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings

Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism

If patients are experiencing signs of hyperthyroidism, a doctor will perform a physical examination and may perform a series of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the condition. These diagnostic tests may include:

  • Radioactive iodine uptake test
  • Thyroid scan
  • TSH test
  • Thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin test

Treatment of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can be treated through a variety of different methods, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. The goal of most treatment options is to bring thyroid hormone levels to a normal state. Treating the symptoms through medication may be all that is necessary in some cases, while others may require more invasive treatment. Hyperthyroidism treatments may include

  • Radioactive iodine therapy to shrink the thyroid gland
  • Anti-thyroid medications to stop the thyroid gland from producing excessive hormones
  • Surgery to remove part or most of the thyroid gland

Medications known as beta blockers may also be prescribed to reduce symptoms until other treatments take effect. While beta blockers help to alleviate most symptoms, they do not stop the hormone production of the thyroid gland.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a common condition that occurs when an underactive thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones to properly manage many important functions of the body. The thyroid is the gland in the front of the neck that controls energy use and metabolic functions. If the thyroid gland is not active enough, it does not make enough thyroid hormone to meet the body's needs and causes certain functions of the body to slow down. As a result, functions such as heart rate, brain function and the rate that the body converts food into energy, all slow down. Women over the age of age of 60 are at the highest risk for developing hypothyroidism. If left untreated, this condition may cause a variety of health complications including obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease

Causes of Hypothyroidism

An autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and involves the immune system attacking the thyroid gland, which can affect its ability to produce hormones. Hypothyroidism can also be caused by several different factors that affect the two main hormones of the thyroid gland; thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Improper functioning of the thyroid gland may also be caused by:

  • Other autoimmune diseases
  • Genetics
  • Radiation therapy
  • Medication
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Previous treatment for thyroid problems

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

The symptoms of hypothyroidism may develop slowly overtime. Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the condition, and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Puffy face
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle aches and weakness
  • Painful joints
  • Depression
  • Heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding

Hypothyroidism can also cause high cholesterol, so people with high cholesterol should be tested for hypothyroidism.

Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism

If hypothyroidism is suspected, the doctor will perform a thorough physical examination as well as several blood tests to measure the levels of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormones in the blood. These tests may include:

  • TSH test
  • Thyroid function test
  • Antibody test

Treatment of Hypothyroidism

Medication that contains synthetic thyroid hormones is the preferred method of treatment for controlling hypothyroidism. The dosage of medication will vary based on the severity of the thyroid problem, the patient's age, weight, and any other existing health problems. Symptoms usually improve within a few weeks after beginning treatment. A normal,healthy thyroid and metabolic state can be restored with thyroid medication, however, most patients will have to take medication for the rest of their lives.

An increase in hormone production can negatively affect the body's reaction to other medication, so it is important to see a doctor regularly while undergoing treatment for hypothyroidism. Most people experience effective results with no side effects or complications from hormone medication.

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