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Overactive Thyroid

An image of a man holding the front of his neck and thyroid, with the text – Overactive Thyroid – also visible

Please note that all content on this website (including, but not limited to, copy, images, commentary, advice, tips, hints, guides, observations) is provided as an informational resource only. It is not a substitute for correct and accurate diagnosis, or recommendation, or treatment by a medical professional. Please ensure that you obtain proper guidance from your GP, or another medical professional. The information provided on this website does not create any patient-medical expert relationship and must not be used in any way as a substitute for such.   

 

 

The thyroid is a gland that sits just in front of the windpipe. This gland produces hormones that can affect things like body temperature and heart rate.

An overactive thyroid is also known as hyperthyroidism, or thyrotoxicosis. If you have an overactive thyroid, or too many of the hormones, it can cause health issues that may require treatment.

The NHS states that an overactive thyroid is about ten times more common in women than men. It also typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 40 years old.

Some people can be more at risk of developing the condition, including those with a family history of thyroid issues, people with type 1 diabetes, or an immune system disorder.

Causes Of Overactive Thyroid

Most people will not experience any issue with this gland during their lifetime. However, there can be several reasons why an overactive thyroid occurs, including:

Graves’ Disease

This is a condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and damages it. It is said that every 3 in 4 people who suffer from an overactive thyroid have Graves’ disease. About 1 in 20 people living with Graves’ disease may also develop other issues associated with this condition.

These complications are focused around the eyes and can include problems such as double vision, excess production of tears, and sensitivity to light. If someone suffers from Graves, they will be referred to an ophthalmologist who specialises in treating and helping people with eye conditions.

Nodules On The Thyroid

Some people have extra lumps, or nodules, on the thyroid. This additional tissue growth can cause the production of more thyroid hormones, which makes the levels too high for the body.

Medicine

There are some medicines, such as amiodarone, that can cause an overactive thyroid.

An image of a lighthouse with the word symptoms next to it

Photo by Anand Dandekar from Pexels 

An overactive thyroid can cause health issues and create a range of symptoms that can affect a lifestyle. These include:

  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Palpitations (fast heart rate)
  • Swelling in the neck area caused by an enlarged thyroid gland
  • Weight loss
  • Trembling, or twitching
  • Mood swings
  • Sensitivity to heat.

As some of the above could be attributed to a range of other health conditions, alongside these, there are some common signs that may show you have an overactive thyroid, including:

  • Hyperactivity (finding it hard to stay still)
  • Red palms of hands
  • Loose nails
  • Hives
  • Hair loss, or thinning
  • Eye problems, such as dryness, or vision issues
  • Always being thirsty
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Diarrhoea.

All of the above could develop over time, or may appear suddenly. In some people, the symptoms and signs could be in a mild form, while others experience more severe episodes.

If you think you have an overactive thyroid, visiting the doctor is the first step. They will diagnose the condition from the symptoms you are presenting with, and by the blood tests they take.

Treatment For An Overactive Thyroid

An overactive thyroid can significantly impact everyday life. However, an overactive thyroid is said to respond well to treatments.

For this condition, there are typically three different routes to take to treat it. They are widely used and can help to alleviate the common problems.

Radioiodine Treatment

A substance called iodine is used to help shrink the gland. The radiation is used to reduce the activity of the thyroid. The content of radiation in this method is low and is said not to pose a threat to health.

Thionamides

This is a group of medicines that are used to stop the thyroid gland from producing too many hormones. The medication includes carbimazole and methimazole.

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are sometimes used to slow down the heart rate and alleviate tremors and anxiety. This medication can be used with other treatments and is often stopped when thyroid levels are under control.

Surgery

In some cases, surgery may be required, although this is usually only for a small number of people. It is typically carried out if the patient has a significant swelling in the neck.

Other Issues Attributed To An Overactive Thyroid

An overactive thyroid can lead to other problems later in life, especially if the condition is not treated correctly. These complications include:

Pregnancy Issues

Someone with an overactive thyroid may experience complications with pregnancy, such as miscarriage, premature birth, or pre-eclampsia.

Thyroid Storm

In some cases, there could be a sudden flare-up of symptoms that could be life-threatening, and this is referred to as a thyroid storm.

 

an image of a chair and table with the text living with the condition on the top right

Photo by JZhuk on iStock

People living with an overactive thyroid can usually control the symptoms with treatment. Although it is essential to stay alert for any changes and signs and keep your doctor informed.

Some people may also experience thyrotoxicosis, and this is due to symptoms suddenly worsening. It can lead to a racing pulse, delirium, and fever.

Brittle bones could also be a factor in people suffering from an overactive thyroid, and speaking with your doctor about calcium supplements might help.

Getting Pregnant

Women with an overactive thyroid may find it more difficult to conceive, as there is too much hormone produced. Hormone levels are usually tested at this stage to ensure that it reduces the risk of infertility.

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Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Medical terminology is often hard to understand at first. However, with the help of our glossary, you will be able to gain some knowledge into the key terms that have been used in the above article that can help to make coming to terms with your condition more straightforward.

Amiodarone – medication or injection to treat or prevent heart rhythm disorders.

Delirium – a change in the brain that causes confusion and disruption.

Pre-eclampsia – a condition that affects pregnant women and causes high blood pressure and increased protein in urine.

Thyrotoxicosis – a condition that causes an excessive amount of thyroid hormone in the body.