Overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism is as common as hypothyroidism.
You must have undergone thyroid test many times during regular health assessment tests. This speaks volume about the critical nature of thyroid.
This small gland in your body produces Thyroid hormone which is responsible for growth and metabolism in our body.
Any discrepancy in its function may lead to an excess or little hormone secretion, which can hamper your metabolism.
Before knowing the signs of an overactive thyroid, you should know about the functioning of the thyroid and various factors that dictate adequate hormone production.
Late diagnosis can result in complications and a longer recovery period.
Your underlying health issues, external factors, and ongoing medications can result in a temporary or more sustained rise in thyroid levels.
Symptoms can be general or focal. Adequate information on the signs of hyperthyroidism can help you to identify the problem at the base.
Know Your Thyroid
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland situated in the front part of your neck, just below the Adam’s apple. It consists of two lobes which are connected by a membranous joint known as the isthmus.
It produces hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), collectively known as thyroid hormones. It also produces a peptide hormone Calcitonin.
The thyroid produces hormones by utilizing elemental Iodine (that is why you must have heard doctors advising to consume iodized salt only).
The brain controls the thyroid levels in the blood. In case of low thyroid, hypothalamus of brain releases Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH). TRH stimulates your pituitary glands to secrete Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which directs thyroid glands to secrete T4.
When the thyroid is produced continuously in an excess, then you are suffering from overactive thyroid. The condition is called hyperthyroidism.
An associated condition is known as thyrotoxicosis. This can result from an overactive thyroid or if you overdose on thyroid hormone medication.
1. Functions of Thyroid Hormones:
|Metabolic functions||Increased basal metabolic rates, increased absorption in the gut by greater glucose and fatty acid oxidation, increased bile secretion, decreased blood cholesterol levels.|
|Cardiac functions||Increased heart rate, strengthened heart-beat, higher respiration rate, increased blood flow and regulation of body temperature.|
|Developmental functions||Fetal brain maturation, increased growth rate in young people.|
|Reproductive functions||Maintenance of normal sexual function increased libido and regularizing menstrual cycle.|
|Miscellaneous||Maintenance of normal sleep pattern, Thought speed and focus.|
2. Function of Calcitonin:
This peptide hormone maintains your blood calcium levels so that the bones can absorb calcium from your blood.
With the rise in thyroid levels, your body will experience the aftermath of heightened body functions. The manifestations are varied, ranging from mild to severe.
5 Common signs of Overactive Thyroid
An overactive thyroid can cause a host of symptoms in your body. You may confuse preliminary symptoms with other ailments.
In case of any suspicion, a blood test will confirm whether your thyroid is on an overdrive.
a. Weight Loss:
Weight loss may seem very natural at first. But if you observe an unprecedented weight loss despite normal diet, you might be suffering from hyperthyroidism.
In such a case your appetite may increase many folds since excessive thyroid hormones result in a greater metabolic rate.
b. Palpitations and Tachycardia:
An overactive thyroid can make your heart overwork. The strain on the heart manifests as pounding sensation (palpitations) and rapid heart rate (tachycardia). This arrhythmia can cause breathlessness and extreme fatigue.
c. Nervous Symptoms:
Since hyperthyroidism can increase body temperature and speed up basal metabolic rate, you may experience nervousness, confusion, mood swings, profuse sweating, trembling and increased sensitivity to heat. This can also increase your bowel movements.
d. Visible Ophthalmopathy:
Sometimes, overactive thyroid points to an underlying disorder like Grave’s disease.
In this situation, your eyeballs may protrude from their orbits due to the edema of tissues and muscles. Dry eyes, visual problems, and sensitivity of light are associated symptoms.
e. Brittle Bones Prone to Fracture:
Excess thyroid hormone in your blood can inhibit calcium absorption by bones from the blood.
This causes your bones to become brittle due to lack of calcium and develop osteoporosis. Easy fractures and joint problems may indicate a surge in your thyroid levels.
Symptoms are much less visible in older adults. Also, medications like Beta Blockers can cover up the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Click here to know more about symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Some other symptoms pointing towards an overactive thyroid are:
- Change in the menstrual cycle in women.
- Enlarged thyroid gland or Goiter.
- Friable skin.
- Brittle hair and very dry skin.
- Atrial fibrillation leading to stroke and cardiac arrest.
Reasons for Thyroid Overdrive
There are several factors that can disrupt normal thyroid production. Have a look at the causes that can put you at risk of hyperthyroidism.
1. Grave’s Disease:
Did you know that most cases of hyperthyroidism (1)are due to Grave’s disease (1)?
Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, assuming it to be a foreign body.
2. Benign Nodules:
The growth of extra, non-cancerous tissue on the thyroid gland can provide an unwanted boost in the production of thyroid hormones. This is more likely if you happen to be above 60 years of age.
3. Thyroid Medications:
Excessive intake of iodine or thyroid medications can stimulate the thyroid gland to produce the additional hormone. Overactive nature of thyroid subsides gradually once the medication is stopped.
4. Pituitary Adenoma:
A benign tumor in the pituitary glands can cause excess production of TSH which in turn stimulates the thyroid gland to produce extra hormone without any purpose.
If the thyroid gland is inflamed due an infection, there are chances that you may develop an overactive thyroid.
Dealing with Hyperthyroidism
Blood tests and imaging can confirm an overactive thyroid. Doctors may prescribe anti-thyroid medications like Tapazole to stop thyroid production.
Other treatments include radioactive iodine treatment (3) and surgery. The treatment methodology depends on the cause and nature of overactive thyroid.
Supportive measures that can help in normalizing thyroid levels in your body are following proper dietary plans and taking prescribed supplements.
Cutting down on sodium and taking calcium supplement can help you in recovering and preventing hyperthyroidism in the future.
What is a thyroid storm?
It is a serious complication of untreated hyperthyroidism wherein exceptionally high thyroid levels can cause high blood pressure and racing heart. The results may be fatal.
Why are women more prone to hyperthyroidism?
Most of the overactive thyroid cases are due to Grave’s disease. Women’s immune system is more reactive than men’s. This is why more women suffer from Grave’s disease than men.
Which systems does the thyroid constitute?
Thyroid gland works for the Endocrine System which has many other hormone-releasing glands like the pineal, pituitary, pancreas etc.
What is the normal level of thyroid hormone in the body?
T4- 5 to 12 nanogram /deciliter of serum.
T3- 80 to 180 nanogram /deciliter of serum.
How does T4 convert into T3?
An enzyme Thyroid Peroxidase helps in producing T3 from T4.