A small gland can cause big problems when it’s overactive

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your throat. It’s part of the endocrine system, which manages the different hormones in your body. Normally, the thyroid secretes hormones that control a lot of different body processes, including your metabolism—but sometimes, it can make too much of these hormones and throw your metabolism out of whack. This is called hyperthyroidism.

There are a few different causes of hyperthyroidism, including:

  • Graves’ disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Toxic nodular goiter
  • Overtreatment for hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid
  • Too much iodine in your diet
  • Problems with the pituitary gland, such as a tumor

Just as the causes of hyperthyroidism can vary, so can the symptoms. Each person with hyperthyroidism can notice slightly different symptoms. Common ones include:

  • Weight loss
  • Thinning or brittle hair
  • Increased sweating
  • Nervousness, irritability or mood changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness or shaky hands
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased heart rate or blood pressure

Hyperthyroidism can also make your thyroid bigger, and you may see a lump called a goiter in the front of your neck. Women with hyperthyroidism may notice changes in their menstrual cycle.

Is it hyperthyroidism?

Other diseases can cause the same symptoms as hyperthyroidism, so talk to your doctor if you’re concerned. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and will do a physical exam, including checking your neck.

To diagnose hyperthyroidism, you may need one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound of your neck
  • Thyroid scan

These tests look at the thyroid and the hormones it produces to see if it is overactive or enlarged.

Treatment gets your thyroid back to normal

If you have hyperthyroidism, there are several treatments available. With each one, the goal is to get your thyroid hormone levels back to normal.

Common treatments for hyperthyroidism include:

  • Medicines to slow down the thyroid
  • Beta blockers
  • Radioactive iodine
  • Surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid

Talk to your doctor to see which treatment is right for you. With the right treatment, your symptoms will be controlled and you can get back to living your normal life.

Don’t wait to get hyperthyroidism diagnosed and treated

If hyperthyroidism isn’t treated, it can cause heart problems. Severe stress or illness can also cause a condition called thyroid storm or thyroid crisis, where the symptoms of hyperthyroidism can become extreme or even life threatening. If you think you might have hyperthyroidism, don’t wait—talk to a doctor today.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.