What is an overactive thyroid?
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones. The thyroid hormones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which represent 99.9% and 0.1% of thyroid hormones, respectively. Thyroid hormones are derived from iodine obtained from the diet.
Causes of an overactive thyroid
An overactive thyroid can be caused by several conditions. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder of poorly understood origin that results in antibodies that stimulate the thyroid’s production of thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by a toxic multinodular goiter (TMNG) and by certain types of thyroid nodules. Thyroid hormones can be taken as medication, and overdose can cause hyperthyroidism. Other causes of hyperthyroidism include abnormal TSH secretion, inflammation of the thyroid gland, and excessive iodine consumption.
The symptoms of an overactive thyroid include weigh loss, fatigue, excessive sweating, intolerance to heat, frequent bowel movements, tremor, elevated heart rate, and difficulty concentrating.
How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
Overactive thyroid is diagnosed in much the same way that any thyroid condition is diagnosed: by measuring the complete set of thyroid hormones and pairing that with a thorough physical exam. Our doctors also measure different autoantibodies that may indicate an autoimmune etiology.
Treatments for an overactive thyroid gland depend on the cause. When hyperthyroidism is caused by nodules in the thyroid that are producing too much thyroid hormone, removal of the nodules is required. Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by different kinds of thyroid cancers, so it is important to perform a thyroid ultrasound and, possibly, biopsy to detect nodules that may be cancerous. Diet and supplementation are potent tools to reduce or eliminate thyroid symptomatology as are specific herbal blends and pharmaceuticals.
It is important to remember that symptoms of overactive thyroid can result from a different system imbalance such as adrenal or pituitary malfunction. It is crucial with any thyroid symptoms to perform a thorough systems exam and not assume the thyroid alone is the cause.