February 2, 2017

Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid disease, means your thyroid gland makes and releases too much thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. It makes hormones that control your metabolism. Metabolism is the pace of your body’s processes and includes things like your heart rate and how quickly you burn calories.

Hyperthyroidism can affect your metabolism. It can also cause nervousness, increased perspiration (sweatiness), rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, difficulty sleeping and weight loss.

Hyperthyroidism is sometimes called thyrotoxicosis, the technical term for too much thyroid hormone in the blood. Thyroid hormones circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream and act on virtually every tissue and cell in the body. Hyperthyroidism causes many of the body’s functions to speed up. About 1 percent of the U.S. population has hyperthyroidism.

The thyroid gland is an organ located in the front of your neck and releases hormones that control your metabolism (the way your body uses energy), breathing, heart rate, nervous system, weight, body temperature, and many other functions in the body. When the thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroidism) the body’s processes speed up and you may experience nervousness, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, hand tremor, excessive sweating, weight loss, and sleep problems, among other symptoms.


Hyperthyroidism has several causes, including –

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that frequently results in thyroid enlargement and hyperthyroidism. In some patients, swelling of the muscles and other tissues around the eyes may develop, causing eye prominence, discomfort or double vision

Silent Thyroiditis can cause Transient (temporary) hyperthyroidism, a condition which appears to be the same as postpartum thyroiditis but not related to pregnancy. It is not accompanied by a painful thyroid gland.

Toxic Nodule – A single nodule or lump in the thyroid can also produce more thyroid hormone than the body requires and lead to hyperthyroidism.

Toxic Multi-nodular Goiter – Multiple nodules 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 tablets, some expectorants, amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone – a medication used to treat certain problems with heart rhythms) and x-ray dyes, may occasionally cause hyperthyroidism in certain patients.

Sub-acute Thyroiditis – This condition may follow a viral infection and is characterized by painful thyroid gland enlargement and inflammation, which results in the release of large amounts of thyroid hormones into the blood. Fortunately, this condition usually resolves spontaneously.

Postpartum Thyroiditis – 5% to 10% of women develop mild to moderate hyperthyroidism within several months of giving birth. Hyperthyroidism in this condition usually lasts for approximately 1 to 2 months. It is often followed by several months of hypothyroidism, but most women will eventually recover normal thyroid function.

Over Medication with Thyroid Hormone – Patients who receive excessive thyroxine replacement treatment can develop hyperthyroidism. They should have their thyroid hormone dosage evaluated by a physician at least once each year and should NEVER give themselves “extra” doses.

Rarely, hyperthyroidism is caused by a pituitary adenoma, which is a noncancerous tumor of the pituitary gland. In this case, hyperthyroidism is due to too much thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Who is at Risk?

Women are two to 10 times more likely than men to develop hyperthyroidism. Certain factors can increase the chances of developing thyroid disorders. People may need more regular testing if they –

  • have had a thyroid problem before, such
  • as goiter or thyroid surgery
  • have a family history of thyroid disease
  • have pernicious anemia, a B12 deficiency; type 1 diabetes; or primary adrenal insufficiency, a hormonal disorder
  • eat large amounts of food containing iodine, such as kelp, or use iodinecontaining medications such as amiodarone, a heart medication
  • are older than age 60
  • were pregnant or delivered a baby within the past 6 months


  • Rapid heart rate and palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland)
  • Moist skin and increased perspiration
  • Shakiness and tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Heat intolerance and sweating
  • Increased appetite accompanied by weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Swollen, reddened, and bulging eyes (in Graves disease)
  • Occasionally, raised, thickened skin over the shins, back of feet, back, hands, or even face
  • In crisis: fever, very rapid pulse, agitation, and possibly delirium
  • Changes in menstrual periods


  • Heart problems – A rapid heart rate, a heart rhythm disorder (called atrial fibrillation) or congestive heart failure can result.
  • Brittle bones (osteoporosis) – Too much thyroid hormone can interfere with your body’s ability to incorporate calcium into your bones.
  • Eye problems due to Graves’ opthalmopathy
  • Red, swollen skin on the shins and feet due to Graves’ disease
  • Thyrotoxic crisis



Betablockers – Betablockers are a group of drugs that tend to improve some of the symptoms and manifestations of hyperthyroidism. In particular, they can improve palpitations, slow the heart down and improve tremor. They have no effect on curing the thyroid overactivity, but do make many people feel better.

Antithyroid drugs – Carbimazole (Neomercazole) and propylthiouracil are antithyroid drugs that are effective in reducing the production of thyroid hormones in the majority of people with hyperthyroidism. In people with Graves’ disease, treatment with one of these drugs for between 6 months and 2 years results in a long-term remission in around half of patients, once the drug is stopped. Both drugs have the common side effects of rash and joint pains, and more rarely (less than 1 in 500 cases) a serious reduction in the circulating white blood cells (agranulocytosis) may occur during treatment.

Radioiodine – Radioiodine is a radioactive isotope of iodine that is taken up and concentrated selectively by the thyroid gland. In most people, this small dose of radioactivity is sufficient to gradually destroy the thyroid tissue.

Thyroid surgery – Surgery to remove most or all of the thyroid gland (subtotal or total thyroidectomy) is another way of definitively treating thyroid overactivity. This is a straightforward operation when carried out by an experienced thyroid surgeon, with a low risk of complications. Hypothyroidism is a recognized side effect of surgery for which levothyroxine replacement will be needed, lifelong. Thyroidectomy is a good treatment option for people with a large goitre and for those with thyroid eye disease.

Alternative Treatment

A daily multivitamin, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins, and trace minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium.

Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil, helps to reduce inflammation and boost immunity. Omega-3 fatty acids can have a blood-thinning effect.

Vitamin C act as an antioxidant and for immune support.

Alpha-lipoic acid for antioxidant support. It can potentially interfere with certain chemotherapy agents.

L-carnitine for decreasing thyroid activity. It may have blood-thinning effects and therefore increase anticlotting effects of certain medicines, such as warfarin (Coumadin).

Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus) for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. Some acidophilus products may need refrigeration. Read labels carefully.


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