Hyperthyroidism develops when the body is exposed to excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. This disorder occurs in almost 1% of all Americans and affects women ten times more often than men. In its mildest form, hyperthyroidism may not cause recognizable symptoms. More often, however, the symptoms are discomforting, disabling, or even life threatening.
When hyperthyroidism develops, a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid) is usually present and may be associated with some or many of the following symptoms: fast heart rate and possibly an irregular heart rhythm, anxiety, irritability, weight loss, increased perspiration, loss of scalp hair, intolerance to warm temperatures, frequent bowel movements, smooth and thin skin, change in menstrual pattern, protrusion of the eyes (in patients with Graves’ Disease) and accelerated loss of calcium from bones.
The causes of hyperthyroidism can be from:
Graves Disease is an autoimmune disorder that frequently results in thyroid enlargement and hyperthyroidism. Swelling of the muscles and other tissues around the eyes may develop, causing eye prominence, discomfort, or double vision. Like other autoimmune diseases, this condition tends to affect multiple family members. It is much more common in women than in men, and tends to occur in younger patients.
Toxic Multinodular Goiter- multiple nodules or a single nodule itself in the thyroid can produce excessive thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism. Often diagnosed in patients over the age of 50, this disorder is more likely to affect heart rhythm. In many cases, the person has had the goiter for many years before it becomes overactive.
Excessive Iodine Ingestion – various sources of high iodine concentrations, such as kelp, sushi, some expectorants, amiodarone and x-ray dyes, may cause hyperthyroidism in certain patients.
Characteristic symptoms and physical signs of hyperthyroidism can be detected by an endocrinologist. In addition, lab tests can be used to confirm the diagnosis. A low level of the pituitary hormone, TSH, in the blood is the most accurate indicator of hyperthyroidism. Free T4, which is the active thyroid hormone in the blood, is elevated above normal levels.
Several effective treatments are available for hyperthyroidism. Deciding which treatment is best depends on what caused the hyperthyroidism, its severity, and other conditions present.
Antithyroid drugs, such as methimazole, control hyperthyroidism by slowing thyroid hormone production.
Radioactive Iodine treatment is a one time capsule given by mouth, which enters the thyroid cells and gradually destroys them. Maximum benefit is usually noted with 2-4 months. No serious complications have been reported. This treatment is safe, simple, and reliably effective, and is considered by most endocrinologists the treatment of choice for hyperthyroidism.
Dr. Nicholas Kaloudis is a highly regarded, board certified endocrinologist. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and owner of EndoHealthMD, in Manhasset, NY. His center provides comprehensive specialty care using current evidence-based practices, and the latest advances in medical aesthetics. He holds an appointment as Associate Clinical Professor at North Shore University in Manhasset. He has received numerous awards, and he has published articles in the field of Endocrinology. For more information and a listing of services provided call: 516 365 1150.