An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is a malfunction of the thyroid gland. Due to various reasons, there is an increased production of hormones in the thyroid gland. This oversupply of hormones then leads to complaints and symptoms. Weight loss, hair loss and heavy sweating are typical of an overactive thyroid.
What is an overactive thyroid?
The term hyperthyroidism refers to a high centralization of thyroid hormones in the body. The most important endocrine gland in the human body is the thyroid. In addition to the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine, it also produces calcitonin. See bittranslators for About Hyperglycemia.
All thyroid hormones contain iodine and also have an effect on almost all bodily cells. The energy metabolism is stimulated by these thyroid hormones. If the thyroid produces more of the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine, the hormones will have an excessive effect on the individual organs.
The pituitary gland (hypophysis) can no longer intervene to regulate this. In this case, one speaks of an overactive thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism.
The forms of hyperthyroidism usually have different causes. In the autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly produces antibodies that lead to an overactive thyroid gland. This autoimmune disease is known in medical circles as Graves ‘ disease. Women are affected more often than men. The exact causes of this hyperthyroidism are not known. However, it is believed that this form of hyperthyroidism can be inherited.
Another form of hyperthyroidism is autonomic hyperthyroidism. One of the most common reasons for this hyperthyroidism is an iodine deficiency. This deficiency leads to an enlargement of the thyroid gland and often nodular changes occur here, which produce hormones without any control. In this type of hyperthyroidism, hormone production becomes independent. The control and monitoring of the pituitary gland is omitted here.
The rather rare causes of hyperthyroidism can be, for example, inflammation of the thyroid gland or tumors in the pituitary gland. Likewise, insensitivity to thyroid hormones or the intake of iodine-containing drugs that cause hyperthyroidism.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease. The protruding eyes, tachycardia and an enlarged thyroid gland are particularly noticeable. The main reasons for this autoimmune disease are genetic causes, viral infections and external influences (e.g. environmental conditions, food).
But why the thyroid gland produces more hormones has not yet been researched in detail. All that is known so far is that autoantibodies are formed that try to mimic the hormones in the thyroid gland.
A healthy thyroid is controlled by the brain to produce hormones. With thyroid autonomy, this control no longer takes place and the thyroid manages itself, so to speak, independently. The most common cause of this is again iodine deficiency. However, the entire thyroid gland is not always affected. Individual areas can also be affected by thyroid autonomy.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Due to the excessively produced thyroid hormones, the body works at full speed. Hyperthyroidism affects the metabolism, the autonomic nervous system and the organs. Therefore, the signs of this disease are very diverse and often non-specific.
Often several symptoms contribute to the suspicion of an overactive thyroid. The following signs, such as psychological abnormalities such as mood swings, inner restlessness and nervousness as well as concentration disorders and aggressiveness, offer an increased probability that an overactive thyroid gland could be present.
Cardiovascular disorders that lead to an increased heart rate, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia can also occur. Sleep disturbances are sometimes possible. An increase in body temperature, excessive sweating and hypersensitivity to heat are also possible
Other symptoms can also be caused by an overactive thyroid gland. These include weight loss without changing hunger pangs and diarrhea. Muscle cramps and unnatural tremors can also occur. Skin changes can occur in which the entire skin feels warm and moist and soft like velvet.
An overactive thyroid gland can also lead to hair loss and brittle fingernails. Over a longer period of time, an untreated hyperthyroidism can cause bone changes. Existing diabetes can also lead to a higher insulin requirement.
An external sign can be an enlargement of the thyroid (goiter/goiter) caused by thyroid autoantibodies. Menstrual cycle disorders can also be considered as symptoms in women. A reduced libido, erectile dysfunction and eye problems are also among the possible symptoms. The feeling of thirst can increase due to an overactive thyroid gland.
course of the disease
The course depends on the causes of the overactive thyroid. Graves’ disease usually regresses on its own, but can also recur after a few years. Nevertheless, the doctor should be consulted in any case.
The thyroid autonomy does not recede and the thyroid continues to enlarge. Since this can be a life-threatening situation, immediate medical treatment is required. If the overactive thyroid gland lasts for a long time, the risk of complications increases. These can also affect other parts of the body.
One of the most common consequences of hyperthyroidism is the formation of a goiter. This is the enlargement of the thyroid gland. If the goiter is not treated medically and continues to grow unhindered, there is a risk of physical impairment. There is also a risk of nodules forming, which in extreme cases can degenerate into malignant tumors. Therefore, they must always be examined by a doctor.
The most serious effect of hyperthyroidism is the thyrotoxic crisis. It leads to a life-threatening aggravation of hyperthyroidism and manifests itself with vomiting, high fever, diarrhea, sweating, accelerated heart rate, restlessness and muscle weakness. If these symptoms are not treated, there is a risk of further complications such as confusion and impaired consciousness.
In the worst case, the patient’s circulatory system fails and he falls into a coma. For this reason, the thyrotoxic crisis represents a life-threatening emergency situation, so that intensive medical care must be given immediately. The causes of thyrotoxic crisis are different.
It usually occurs due to an excess of iodine, such as in X-ray contrast media. Other reasons can be additional illnesses, anesthesia, pronounced infections or accidents. An additional consequence of hyperthyroidism is the stroke, which is triggered by an abrupt onset of reduced blood flow in the brain.
When should you go to the doctor?
A doctor should be consulted as soon as the affected person experiences persistent or increasing discomfort. A feeling of illness, inner weakness or a strong weight loss without a comprehensible reason are worrying and should be clarified. Hair changes, thinning hair, or hair loss are other signs of hormonal imbalance that should be seen by a doctor. If the person concerned suffers from heavy sweating despite normal physical activity and unpleasant night sweats form, an examination is required.
Fluctuations in mood, changes in the color of your voice or an abnormality in sexual desire are also indications of a health irregularity. If behavioral problems, an aggressive appearance, disturbances in concentration and a decrease in cognitive performance become apparent, a doctor should be consulted. Heart rhythm irregularities should be examined and treated as soon as possible to avoid complications. Hypertension, elevated body temperature, or hypersensitivity to heat should be presented to a doctor.
If the person concerned complains of diffuse muscle problems, cramps, trembling of the limbs and changes in the complexion, a doctor should be consulted. A change in vision, erectile dysfunction and irregularities in the female menstrual cycle are causes for concern. Thirst and diarrhea are also among the symptoms that are triggered by an overactive thyroid gland and should be checked by a doctor.
Treatment & Therapy
As a rule, the hormones in the blood are determined in the event of a possible hyperthyroidism. A later treatment is then with drugs that should inhibit the increased hormone production. It is not uncommon for an operation to be carried out to reduce the size of the thyroid gland, which means that fewer hormones can be produced. Radioiodine therapy has also shown good results.
Depending on the form and severity of the hyperthyroidism, there are different treatment approaches. As a rule, all therapies for hyperthyroidism are well tolerated and effectively improve the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Excessive thyroid hormone production can be inhibited by the administration of medication, such as antithyroid drugs.
By taking antithyroid drugs in the case of hyperthyroidism, the thyroid function calms down and there is a slight increase in weight, which was prevented by the hyperthyroidism. In some cases, patients with an overactive thyroid are prescribed beta-blockers. These are intended to suppress unpleasant symptoms such as tremors, tachycardia, fears, etc.
The metabolism can normalize in about one to two months. In the case of an overactive thyroid gland, regular check-ups or checking the thyroid values are useful.
Radiation, radioiodine therapy or even surgery may be necessary in the case of severe hyperthyroidism or if the antithyroid drugs are not effective. In radioiodine therapy, the patient receives an individually dosed radioiodine gelatine capsule. If you drink enough liquid, the radioiodine stays in the body longer.
If radioiodine therapy is used for hyperthyroidism, there are special centers or practices that carry out this type of therapy. In particularly severe cases of hyperthyroidism, surgery may be recommended. This is then referred to as a thyroid resection. If an overactive thyroid gland is operated on, part or all of the thyroid gland is removed.
The causes of an overactive thyroid are unpredictable. Therefore, preventive measures are not available in principle. If the causes of the hyperfunction are an overdose of iodine or other hormones, the exact amount should be checked and adjusted here.
Since the overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can have different causes, there are only limited effective measures to prevent such a dysfunction.
Sufficient iodine supply can be useful to prevent hyperthyroidism. As a rule, this is the best prevention against lump formation or the high growth of the thyroid gland. In the case of overactive thyroid disease Graves’ disease, there is no adequate prevention.
If the hyperthyroidism has to be treated surgically, aftercare plays an important role. It takes a certain amount of time for the patient to recover from the procedure. Ultimately, the duration of the healing process also depends on the type and extent of the operation.
It usually takes one to two weeks for the patient to be able to return to their place of work and their usual activities. No heavy objects may be lifted during this period to avoid strain on the neck.
To ensure that recovery after the surgical procedure is optimal, the so-called fast-track concept is used. It begins immediately after the operation and includes optimized treatment of the pain, rapid feeding and early mobilization of the patient. Furthermore, drainage, catheters and infusions should be dispensed with as quickly as possible.
If there is tension, physiotherapy exercises and applying fango packs can help to relieve it. Sometimes special breathing, inhalation and cold applications are carried out. From the first day, the patient can move freely in the hospital ward. You can usually leave the clinic after two to four days.
You can do that yourself
Hyperthyroidism is usually treated with medication by the attending physician. Self-help in everyday life is based on the symptoms that often make the clinical picture so unpleasant. It can alleviate this, but without being able to positively influence the underlying disease. Self-help in everyday life is therefore primarily aimed at the well-being of the patient.
Hyperfunction often causes patients to sweat profusely and have a low heat tolerance. Cool, well-ventilated rooms can help here. A classic sign of hyperfunction is restlessness or feelings of anxiety, which are often associated with tachycardia or palpitations. Conservation is the wrong approach here. On the contrary, moderate endurance training is often a means of efficiently counteracting the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
The metabolism is often significantly increased when the thyroid gland is overactive. This can also affect digestion and cause diarrhea. These can be treated naturally with flea seed preparations . The lack of fluids caused by diarrhea can be replaced with water and herbal teas.
Stress and excitement is a common trait of the often restless hyperthyroid patient. Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen or yoga can help here to calm down again. For a sleep that really brings relaxation, regular and well-dosed endurance training is also recommended.