Hyperthyroidism

Hormones help regulate many of the body’s functions. Hormones, produced by your thyroid gland, control how your body uses energy, such as your heart rate or how quickly you burn calories. When your thyroid gland releases more hormones than your body needs to function at its best, you have a thyroid disorder called hyperthyroidism (hyper means over).

An overactive thyroid gland produces excess hormones that cause your body to process energy more quickly than normal. As a result, you may lose weight, feel anxious or have other symptoms listed below. Without treatment, hyperthyroidism may lead to heart problems or a condition called “thyroid storm” that causes the heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature to reach dangerous levels.

Mercy physicians are experts in diagnosing and treating hyperthyroidism and other thyroid disorders. We’ll get to the cause of your overactive thyroid and determine the best treatment.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, and the thyroid reacts by producing excess thyroid hormone.

Other, less common hyperthyroidism causes include:

  • Thyroid nodules or lumps on the thyroid that make too much hormone
  • Thyroid inflammation (thyroiditis)

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

While some people with hyperthyroidism have no symptoms, many will experience symptoms such as:

  • Feeling nervous or “on edge”
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Breathing problems
  • Shaking hands
  • Feeling hot or sweaty
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Hair loss

If you have symptoms of hyperthyroidism, make an appointment with your doctor. A simple blood test can determine whether your thyroid is producing excess hormones.

Treatment for Hyperthyroidism

Even if you do not have bothersome symptoms, your doctor will likely recommend treatment for hyperthyroidism to prevent potentially dangerous complications in the future. Mercy physicians use several treatments for overactive thyroid based on your hormone levels, age and personal health. Sometimes, you may need a combination of treatments.

Your treatment options may include:

  • Radioactive iodine: radioactive iodine destroys part of the thyroid gland. Since only the thyroid absorbs iodine, the rest of your body is not affected. Most people need only a single dose.
  • Antithyroid medication: Your doctor may prescribe antithyroid medication to reduce hormone production. These pills are usually taken for one to two years.
  • Surgery: If antithyroid medicines and radioactive iodine are not options, you may need thyroidectomy surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland.

While you are taking antithyroid medication, or after radioactive iodine or surgery, your doctor will monitor your hormone levels with blood tests to ensure they don’t decrease too much.

If you need additional care, we’ll refer you to a Mercy endocrinologist who specializes in thyroid disorders. We’ll provide the care and support you need to keep your hormones at healthy levels, so you can feel your best.

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