What is Hyperthyroidism?
By Andrew Deschanes
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid produces too much of the hormone thyroxine, which can be caused by: Inflammation of the thyroid gland, called thyroiditis, can lead to the release of excess amounts of thyroid hormones that are normally stored in the gland. In subacute thyroiditis, the painful inflammation of the gland is believed to be caused by a virus, and the hyperthyroidism lasts a few weeks.
Sometimes inflammation of the thyroid gland occurs for unknown reasons. The inflammation can cause excess thyroid hormone stored in the gland to leak into your bloodstream.
Hyperthyroidism can also occur in patients who take excessive doses of any of the available forms of thyroid hormone. This is a particular problem in patients who take forms of thyroid medication that contains T3, which is normally produced in relatively small amounts by the human thyroid gland. Other forms of hyperthyroidism are even rarer. It is important for your doctor to determine which form of hyperthyroidism you may have since the best treatment options will change depending on the underlying cause.
Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies produced by your immune system stimulate your thyroid to produce too much thyroxine. Normally, your immune system uses antibodies to help protect against viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances that invade your body. In Graves' disease, antibodies mistakenly attack your thyroid gland and occasionally the tissue behind your eyes and the skin of your lower legs over the shins. Scientists aren't sure exactly what causes Graves' disease, although several factors are likely involved including a genetic predisposition. It is not known why Graves' Disease runs in families. Graves' Disease effects women much more often than men (about 8:1 ratio, thus 8 women get Graves Disease for every man that gets it.
Graves Disease is often called diffuse toxic goiter because the entire thyroid gland is enlarged, usually moderately enlarged, sometimes quite big.
Another cause of hyperthyroidism is when one or more adenomas of your thyroid produce too much thyroxine. A part of the gland that has walled itself off from the rest of the gland, forming benign lumps that may cause an enlargement of the thyroid is an adenoma. Not all adenomas produce excess thyroxine, and doctors aren't sure what causes some to begin producing too much hormone.
Hyperthyroidism can mimic other health problems, which may make it difficult for your doctor to diagnose. It can also cause a wide variety of signs and symptoms, including:
• Sudden weight loss, even when appetite and food intake remain normal or increase
• Rapid or irregular heartbeat
• Nervousness, anxiety or anxiety attacks, irritability
• Changes in menstrual patterns
• Increased sensitivity to heat
• Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
• An enlarged thyroid gland
• Fatigue, muscle weakness
• Difficulty sleeping
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