Hyperthyroidism is too much thyroid hormone. It develops when the thyroid gland becomes overactive.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones called T3 and T4. They control the body's metabolism.
The Thyroid Gland
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Hyperthyroidism may be caused by:
These factors increase your chance of developing hyperthyroidism:
Symptoms come on slowly. They may be mistaken for stress. As the thyroid becomes more overactive, symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical and family history. A physical exam will be done. The exam often reveals:
Your doctor may order the following tests:
Treatment will depend on the cause. It will also be adjusted if you are pregnant.
Antithyroid drugs work best for Graves' disease. They will reduce thyroid activity. Smoking can interfere with some of the medications. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how to quit .
All theses medications can cause a rash, fever and painful joints. Serious adverse reactions include lack of infection fighting cells.
If the disease goes into remission, you may no longer need medication.
This type of medication can relieve rapid heart rate and jitters.
Radioactive iodine is taken orally. It is then absorbed by the thyroid gland. Once there, it damages most of the thyroid cells. These cells can no longer produce thyroid hormones. Within days, the excess iodine passes out of the body in the urine or changes into a nonradioactive state. This treatment reduces the activity of the thyroid. Sometimes the treatment can decrease the thyroid levels too much. In this case, you will need to take a daily thyroid hormone replacement.
Surgery is uncommon for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. It will remove part or all of the thyroid. It may be an option when medical therapy fails.
After surgery, you may need to take a daily thyroid supplement.
If there are eye symptoms like dry red eyes or double vision, your doctor may prescribe:
If you are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, follow your doctor's instructions . You may be referred to an eye specialist.
American Thyroid Association
National Graves' Disease Foundation
Thyroid Foundation of Canada
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Medical guidelines for clinical practice for the evaluation and treatment of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Endocrine Practice . 2002;8:457-469.
Hyperthyroidism. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated December 14, 2012. Accessed December 31, 2012.
Medical Guidelines for Treatment of Hypo/Hyperthyroidism. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists website. Available at: https://www.aace.com/files/hypo-hyper.pdf . Accessed December 31, 2012.
Shomon M. Frequently asked questions on Graves' disease & hyperthyroidism. Thyroid-Info website. Available at: http://www.thyroid-info.com/articles/hyperthyroidism-faq.htm . Accessed December 31, 2012.
Van Geest RJ, Sa sim IV, Koppeschaar HP, et al. Methylprednisolone pulse therapy for patients with moderately severe Graves' orbitopathy: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Eur J Endocrinol . 2008;148:229-237.
1/30/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Nyirenda MJ, Taylor PN, Stoddart M, Beckett GJ, Toft AD. Thyroid-stimulating hormone-receptor antibody and thyroid hormone concentrations in smokers vs nonsmokers with Graves disease treated with carbimazole. JAMA . 2009;301:162-164.
7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Safety: propylthiouracil. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm164162.htm . Published June 4, 2009. Accessed July 7, 2009.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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