Diseases

Hyperthyroidism

Endocrine disease, Autoimmune disease

Hyperthyroidism is a disease, in which the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone (thyroxine). The thyroid is located at the front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple and releases this hormone into the blood. Thyroid hormone stimulates metabolism in the body. Due to an excess of thyroid hormone in the blood, metabolism is accelerated.


Cause

Hyperthyroidism can have various causes. Usually, this is the so-called Graves’ disease (or Basedow), an autoimmune disease, in which immune cells attack the thyroid.

Another cause of hyperthyroidism is Plummer’s disease, in which the thyroid is enlarging in the course of time and is producing too much thyroid hormone. An oversized thyroid is called a goiter (or goitre).

A benign nodule (toxic adenoma) also occurs once in a while as the cause of an overactive thyroid. Finally, an inflammation of the thyroid, using lithium and iodine-including medicines and other autoimmune diseases can cause the condition.


Symptoms

An excess of thyroid hormone can cause various signs and symptoms, including:

Sometimes, the symptoms are not so clear and the disease is not easily recognized.


Diagnosis

The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is determined by blood tests. In the blood test, the content of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormone in the blood is measured. The amount of thyroid hormone will be increased and the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone usually decreased. If a blood test demonstrates that there’s an overactive thyroid, additional tests will be done, such as scintigraphy, to determine the cause. Here, a low dose of radioactive iodine will be given, in order to find out how much of this is absorbed by the thyroid and where in the thyroid it’s located exactly.


Treatment

There are three ways to treat hyperthyroidism, so that the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood will return to normal:


Prognosis

With treatment, the prospects are good. Most symptoms disappear after successful treatment. In elderly people, long-term hyperthyroidism can lead to heart failure.


Considerations


Facts


Synonyms

Overactive Thyroid, Thyrotoxicosis


See also

Heart Failure

Hypothyroidism

Blood Test

Scintigraphy

Iodine

Smoking

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