Hyperthyroidism is an over activity of the thyroid gland that can result in a number of unpleasant symptoms and can even result in death. The condition is present in at least 13 million Americans and probably in at least that many others living in Europe. The condition is caused by the thyroid gland overproducing certain “free thyroid” hormones known as thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which result in an over stimulus of certain body functions, including heartbeat and the digestive and bowl functions. The result can be fast heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, vomiting and diarrhea. If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can eventually result in heart attacks and strokes with fatal results.
In addition to the previously mentioned symptoms, there are also several rather ambiguous indications for hyperthyroidism, such as sudden weight gain and difficulty in losing body fat, severe constipation, fatigue and depression, hair loss, menstrual period irregularities with severe bleeding, and dry itchy skin. While many of these symptoms can be attributed to a number of conditions, if you or someone you know suffers from three or more of these concurrently, it’s a good chance the cause is an overactive thyroid gland.
There are a number of ways to treat hyperthyroidism, ranging from drugs known as thyrostatics (drugs which inhibit the production of thyroid hormones) beta blockers (drugs which reduce symptoms such as heart palpitations and accelerated pulse rates); to more permanent treatments such as surgery to remove the entire thyroid gland, or treatments such as radioiodine or iodine 131 therapy. Removal of the entire thyroid gland will require the patient to take medications which substitute the effects of hormones secreted by the thyroid gland. Radioisotope therapy (involving iodine 131) may not be advisable to some people, especially those allergic to iodine.
It is therefore advisable for people suffering from the above mentioned symptoms to be examined by a qualified endocrinologist who can afterwards determine what treatments are best suited for dealing with a hyperactive thyroid. An under-active thyroid gland, hypothyroidism, is also a cause for concern as it often results in heart attacks – especially in women over age 50.
In any event, it is recommended to consult with a qualified physician if you have any concerns in the matter, since attempting self-diagnosis is never a good idea.
Picture by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation