The thyroid may be small, but it plays an important job in the body as it releases and controls hormones that control metabolism. And metabolism can affect your weight, both positively and negatively. So, what happens if your thyroid kicks into overdrive?
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is a relatively common hormonal condition that occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine in the body. Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck that makes the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine These hormones affect nearly every organ in your body and control many of the body’s most important functions, including heart rate, body temperature and they help convert food into energy.
Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body’s metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Other symptoms may include nervousness, anxiety, trouble sleeping, hyperactivity or fatigue. Hyperthyroidism can also lead to swelling of the thyroid gland, which causes a noticeable lump, known as a goiter, to form in the throat. The severity, frequency and range of these symptoms can vary from person to person. If not treated, hyperthyroidism can cause serious problems with your heart, bones, muscles, menstrual cycle and fertility.
There are several underlying causes of hyperthyroidism. The most common is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your thyroid and causes it to make too much hormone. Thyroid nodules, which are growths on your thyroid, can also cause hyperthyroidism. While they are usually not cancerous, they may become overactive and make too much thyroid hormone. Thyroid nodules are more common in older adults. Thyroiditis is inflammation of the thyroid and causes stored thyroid hormone to leak out of your thyroid gland. Too much iodine, found in foods and medicines, can also cause your thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone.
Diagnosing hyperthyroidism requires a trip to your doctor. Testing could include thyroid testing and thyroid antibody blood tests as well as a thyroid scan, ultrasound or radioactive iodine uptake test, which measures the amount of radioactive iodine your thyroid takes up from your blood after you swallow a small amount of it.
Treatments for hyperthyroidism include medicines, radioiodine therapy and thyroid surgery. Anti-thyroid medicines cause your thyroid to make less thyroid hormone. Radioiodine therapy involves taking radioactive iodine by mouth as a capsule or liquid. This therapy slowly destroys the cells of the thyroid gland that produce thyroid hormone. It does not affect other body tissues. In rare cases, hyperthyroidism treatment involves surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland. Beta-blockers may also sometimes be used to temporarily relieve many symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland, although it doesn’t target the thyroid gland itself.
It’s common for treatment to result in the thyroid not producing enough hormones. This is known as having an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) which is not usually serious and is easily treated.
Although hyperthyroidism can be serious if you ignore it, most people respond well once it is diagnosed and treated. If hyperthyroidism is left untreated, it can lead to some serious health problems, including irregular heartbeat, thinning bones and osteoporosis. It can also result in an eye disease called Graves’ ophthalmopathy which can cause double vision, light sensitivity and eye pain. In rare cases it can lead to vision loss.
If you experience unexplained weight loss, a rapid heartbeat, unusual sweating, swelling at the base of your neck or other signs and symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, see your doctor. It’s important to completely describe the changes you’ve observed because many signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be associated with several other conditions.
Regular checkups are a great way to not only stay healthy but also catch any underlying physical and mental issues. Is it time to schedule your annual wellness check? West Tennessee Medical Group Primary Care has locations throughout the region, and are accepting new patients. Make an appointment today.