What is hyperthyroidism?

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.

Causes of 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

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism

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.

Diagnosis and testing for 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.


Endocrinology and Metabolism

When hormones are out of balance, you can experience a wide range of problems. Main Line Health endocrinologists can help assess your needs and provide care for any endocrinology and metabolism conditions.