Last updated date: 28-Apr-2023
Originally Written in English
7 Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism – A Detailed Look at Overactive Thyroids
As we grow older, we gradually begin to find out that we aren’t quite as indestructible as we once thought, and the importance of taking care of our bodies really becomes apparent.
When people think of their thyroid glands, especially as they grow older, more often than not it is an underactive thyroid that tends to cause the most problems for a lot of people. Despite this, though, overactive thyroid glands can be just as harmful, which is why it pays to know the symptoms and what to watch out for.
One of the main reasons why overactive thyroids, or hyperthyroidism as it is better known, is such a big problem is due to the fact that it can be hard to diagnose, which is why we need to know the symptoms and warning signs.
Here’s a look at several symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism, also known as an overactive thyroid, is a medical condition which affects your thyroid gland.
Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the front of your neck just above the collarbone.
This gland controls a whole variety of different physiological processes including your heart rate, your metabolism, your brain function, your body temperature, and a whole lot more besides.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of a hormone known as thyroxine. This hormone helps to dictate how cells in your body utilize energy, which in turn means that it plays a key role in the functioning of your metabolism.
When your thyroid produces too many of these hormones it can cause a number of unpleasant side effects and symptoms which will need to be addressed.
Whereas overactive thyroids can affect anybody, research has found that women aged 20 – 40 are roughly 10 times more likely to suffer from hyperthyroidism than men.
What can cause hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism can be caused by a whole variety of different conditions and health issues. One of the most common causes is an autoimmune disorder known as Graves’ Disease. This is a condition whereby the body’s own immune system attacks itself. Antibodies produced by the immune system stimulate the thyroid gland, causing it to produce and secrete too much thyroxine.
There is a genetic link between Graves’ Disease so if it does run in your family there is a strong chance it could affect you. Furthermore, it is genetically more likely to affect women than men.
There are, however, a number of other potential causes of hyperthyroidism, including:
- Elevated iodine levels
- Benign tumours on the pituitary gland and/or thyroid gland
- Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland)
- Tumours located on the testes or ovaries
- Thyroid nodules
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
Now that we know more about hyperthyroidism, we’ll take a better look at some of the primary signs and symptoms of an overactive thyroid.
The following are just a few of the most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Unexplained weight loss
People suffering with an underactive thyroid often find that they struggle to lose weight and they become more susceptible to weight gain.
On the flipside, those that suffer with hyperthyroidism have the opposite problem. To some, unexplained weight loss may not sound all that bad, especially if you could stand to lose a couple of pounds. However, if you do find your weight dropping for no obvious reason, hyperthyroidism could be the culprit.
Elevated levels of thyroxine hormone can cause the metabolism to speed up dramatically, which means that you’ll burn more calories than usual, even in a rested state. This means that food you consumed will be burnt as energy, as will stored body fat and possibly even lean muscle tissue too.
Even though weight loss may not necessarily be a bad thing normally, the fact that your metabolism is burning off food and converting it into energy before you have chance to properly digest it and break it down means that you could suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies as you won’t have time to absorb all of the necessary nutrients from the foods you’ve consumed.
Regardless of whether or not you feel as if you need to lose weight, if you find yourself losing weight for no apparent reason, you should always seek medical advice, just to be on the safe side.
Another tell-tale sign of an overactive thyroid gland is what is known as a goiter.
A goiter is where you experience a large, unsightly, yet painless swelling on the neck, specifically of the thyroid gland when it is not functioning as it should.
Sometimes they are simply small lumps, whereas in other instances these goiters can be so large that they can make the entire neck look swollen and enlarged. Even though they aren’t painful, they can sometimes cause issues with chewing and swallowing food. They can also make those suffering from them feel self-conscious about their appearance.
Do you find that you suffer with sudden uncontrollable shaking of your hands and extremities? If so, this could be a sign of hyperthyroidism.
Tremors are a common tell-tale sign of an overactive thyroid, and typically you’ll find that you struggle to grip things, gesture, or simply keep a steady hand while performing various tasks.
Usually, you’ll find that these tremors occur at random intervals, and they will often clear up themselves, without treatment. It is worth noting that there are many other reasons why your hands may shake randomly, so don’t assume that just because you do have a case of the shakes, you also happen to have an overactive thyroid.
Excessive bowel movements
Whereas regular bowel movements are indeed a sign of a healthy digestive system, if you find yourself going to the bathroom several times per day and carrying out frequent bowel movements, hyperthyroidism could be the culprit.
When your thyroid gland secretes excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, this can increase your body’s natural rates of digestion and boost the GI tract.
Because you are digesting more food at a more rapid pace, this in turn results in more waste being produced, and as this waste has to leave the body somehow, it results in frequent bowel movements in which you poop more frequently than usual.
If you find that you need to empty your bowels several times per day, especially soon after you eat something, it is worth getting your thyroid levels checked.
Rapid heart rate
Another sign of hyperthyroidism to be on the lookout for is a rapid heart rate.
When your body produces excessive amounts of thyroxine, this can ramp up your heart rate, resulting in a rapid heart rate and heart palpitations.
This can obviously vary from person to person, but typically you will find that your heart rate can easily go above 90 beats per minute. Needless to say, those with cardiovascular issues should be very vary of hyperthyroidism as it does elevate the heart rate so much.
Whereas we all perspire in certain situations, I.E in heatwaves or when exercising, if you find yourself sweating profusely on a regular basis, even when you’re in a resting state, this could very well be down to hyperthyroidism.
Those that suffer with an overactive thyroid need to be very mindful of dehydration, as excessive sweating will result in a loss of fluids and important electrolytes, which could damage your health in a whole variety of different ways.
Disrupted menstrual cycles
This next one is for the women out there reading this.
If you find that your menstrual cycle has been erratic and disrupted lately, you might want to consider getting your thyroid levels checked out.
These changes can vary from person to person, but usually they will either be in the form of long gaps between menstrual cycles, lighter bleeding than normal, or more excessive bleeding than usual. Some women may find that they don’t actually experience a menstrual cycle at all.
For women, this is one of the most common signs of hyperthyroidism and the good news is that, once treatment is sought out, menstrual cycles should quickly return to normal.
Why should you speak to a medical expert?
If you’re concerned that your thyroid is not right, speaking to a medical expert is the perfect way to set your mind at ease, diagnose potential problems, and start treating potential problems in the process.
Whether you speak to your local health practitioner, or if you seek overseas medical care and treatment, hyperthyroidism can be treated by these experts in no time at all.
There are medications such as Methimazole which prevent the thyroid from producing hormones, along with radioactive iodine treatments which kill the cells in the thyroid that produce thyroxine.
In some cases, surgery may be the best option where sections, or even the entire thyroid gland may be removed. Again, always speak to your doctor as they will be able to advise you on the best treatment and care plan to pursue.