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What is hyper- thyroidism? (Part 1)

Manjula Raguthu MD,FAAFP,ABAARM

Manjula Raguthu MD,FAAFP,ABAARM

Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid disease, means your thyroid gland makes and releases too much thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. It makes hormones that control your metabolism. Metabolism is the pace of your body’s processes and includes things like your heart rate and how quickly you burn calories.
Hyperthyroidism can affect your metabolism. It can also cause nervousness, increased perspiration (sweatiness), rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, difficulty sleeping and weight loss.
Hyperthyroidism usually begins slowly, so its symptoms can be mistaken for stress or other health problems. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
• Weight loss
• Rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat or pounding of the heart
• Nervousness, anxiety or irritability
• Tremors (trembling of the hands and fingers)
• Changes in menstrual patterns (usually lighter flow, less frequent periods) in women
• Increased sensitivity to heat
• Increased perspiration
• Changes in bowel patterns An enlarged thyroid gland (called a goiter), which can appear as a swelling at the base of the neck
Older adults may have subtle symptoms, such as increased heart rate, increased perspiration and a tendency to become more tired during normal activities.
If your hyperthyroidism is caused by Graves’ disease, you may also have Graves’ opthalmopathy, a disorder that affects your eyes. These symptoms may show up before, after or at the same time as your symptoms of hyperthyroidism. In Graves’ opthalmopathy, the muscles behind the eyes swell and push the eyeballs forward. Often, the eyeballs will actually bulge out of their normal position. The front surfaces of the eyeballs become can dry, red and swollen. You may notice excessive tearing or discomfort in your eyes, sensitivity to light, blurry or double vision, and less eye movement.
In more than 70% of cases, hyperthyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease. Normally, antibodies produced by the immune system help protect the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances. An autoimmune disease is when your immune system produces antibodies that attack your body’s tissues and/or organs. With Graves’ disease, antibodies produced by the immune system stimulate the thyroid, making it produce too much hormone. Doctors think Graves’ disease may run in families. It is most common among young women.
Two other common causes for hyperthyroidism include:
• Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules. One or more nodules or lumps in the thyroid grow and increase their activity so that they make too much hormone.
• Thyroiditis. A problem with the immune system or a viral infection causes the thyroid gland to become inflamed and produce extra thyroid hormone that leaks into the bloodstream.
• Blood stream and is absorbed by overactive thyroid cells. Radioactive iodine causes the level of thyroid hormone in the body to decrease. Symptoms usually subside in 3 to 6 months. Permanent low thyroid activity (hypothyroidism) usually is the final result, but this can be treated with thyroid supplements. Despite concerns about radioactive material, this treatment has been used for more than 60 years without causing any problems. Most adults in the United States who develop hyperthyroidism are treated with radioactive iodine.
• Anti-thyroid medicine. These drugs treat hyperthyroidism by blocking the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones. Symptoms begin to improve in 6 -12 weeks but treatment usually continues for at least a year.
Dr. Manjula Raguthu has been a family physician for 26 years. She is specialized in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, American Physicians of Indian Origin, Texas Academy of family Physicians and American Anti-Aging Academy. She takes a holistic approach to health, uses Bio identical hormones and integrative therapies to achieve optimal health for her patients. Visit www.medwinfamily.com for more details.

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