Table of Contents
- Written by Dr. Patricia Shelton on May 19, 2022
What is hyperthyroidism?
The thyroid gland is located on the front of the throat. It produces two hormones that control energy use and metabolism in cells throughout the body. When there’s too little thyroid hormone, this is known as hypothyroidism. When too much thyroid hormone is produced, this is known as hyperthyroidism.
Unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and anxiety are all symptoms of hyperthyroidism. While these might also be caused by other medical conditions, it’s important to consider hyperthyroidism as a possible cause of symptoms like these.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
If you’re worried that you might have an overactive thyroid, then you might want a hyperthyroidism symptoms checklist to see if your symptoms match up. Some of the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Feeling anxious or irritable
- Trouble sleeping
- Intolerance to heat (you feel too hot when most others around you feel comfortable)
- Excessive sweating
- Oily skin
- Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Muscle weakness
All of these excessive thyroid hormone symptoms can also be caused by a variety of other conditions. In order to determine whether your thyroid hormone levels are abnormal, you’ll need to get a blood test. This can be done in your doctor’s office or a medical laboratory. You could also choose to order a home testing kit, which uses a blood sample obtained by a fingerprick.
Some people with hyperthyroidism have only mild symptoms, which they may not even notice. Even in people who don’t have noticeable symptoms, hyperthyroidism can still cause damage to the body over time, especially the heart.
Causes of hyperthyroidism
There are a variety of potential causes of hyperthyroidism. Some of the common causes include:
- Graves disease, in which the body produces abnormal antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland
- Toxic adenoma, also known as a thyroid nodule, which is a lump of abnormal thyroid tissue that produces thyroid hormones
- Thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland
- Taking too much thyroid medication for hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid
Causes of hyperthyroidism in females
Overall, the potential causes of hyperthyroidism are the same in men and women. However, women are more likely than men to suffer from thyroid problems in general, including hyperthyroidism. They’re also more likely to have autoimmune conditions, so Graves’ disease is more common in women, and they’re also more likely to suffer from Hashimoto’s disease, a common cause of hypothyroidism.
Causes of hyperthyroidism in men
In men, the causes of hyperthyroidism are the same as in women. However, men are less likely to suffer from thyroid problems in general. They’re also less likely to have autoimmune diseases than women are, so issues like Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease are less common in men.
Treatment of hyperthyroidism
In many cases, hyperthyroidism is treated by antithyroid medications, which inhibit the synthesis of thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland. In some cases, the treatment includes removal of part or all of the thyroid gland, either by surgery or by using radioactive iodine to kill off cells in the thyroid.
What are the early signs of hyperthyroidism?
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism may come on fairly suddenly, or they may arise more gradually. Many people have mild high thyroid symptoms that are easy to overlook, such as getting hot easily or fatigue.
Can hyperthyroidism cause Afib?
Afib, or atrial fibrillation, is a condition in which the atria, the upper chambers of the heart, don’t beat in a coordinated rhythm. Because the beating of the heart muscle cells isn’t coordinated, the atria simply quiver, rather than being able to pump blood. Studies have shown that hyperthyroidism increases the risk of Afib, even in people who don’t have obvious over active thyroid symptoms.
Can hyperthyroidism cause diarrhea?
One of the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism is diarrhea, or more frequent bowel movements.
Can hyperthyroidism cause fatigue?
People with hyperthyroidism have a faster than usual metabolism. Basically, every process in the body speeds up as a result of the excess thyroid hormone. This can lead to the body using up its energy too quickly, leading to fatigue. Hyperthyroidism also often causes sleep problems, which can also lead to fatigue.
Can hyperthyroidism cause headaches?
It’s possible for hyperthyroidism to lead to headaches. For example, hyperthyroidism often interferes with sleep, and a lack of sleep can lead to headaches. When people suffer from fatigue or an energy crash due to hyperthyroidism, this could also cause a headache.
Can hyperthyroidism cause heart problems?
Many people with hyperthyroidism have heart-related symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations, or even atrial fibrillation. Over time, the effects of hyperthyroidism can overtax the heart and increase the risk of heart failure.
Can hyperthyroidism cause weight loss?
One of the common hyperthyroidism symptoms is weight loss. If you’re losing weight, and you haven’t made significant lifestyle changes or an effort to lose weight, then you should definitely talk to your doctor about this. Although some people are happy to lose weight without trying, it’s very important to make sure that this doesn’t represent a significant medical issue.
Baumgartner C, da Costa BR, et al. Thyroid Function Within the Normal Range, Subclinical Hypothyroidism, and the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation. Circulation 2017 Nov 28;136(22):2100-2116. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.028753.
Canaris GJ, Manowitz NR, et al. The Colorado thyroid disease prevalence study. Arch Intern Med 2000 Feb 28;160(4):526-34. doi: 10.1001/archinte.160.4.526.
Carle A, Pedersen IB, et al, Gender differences in symptoms of hypothyroidism: a population-based DanThyr study. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2015 Nov;83(5):717-25. doi: 10.1111/cen.12787.
Graves’ disease. US Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/graves-disease. Accessed 13 May 2022.
Hyperthyroidism and your heart. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-disease/hyperthyroidism-and-your-heart. Accessed 13 May 2022.
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20373659. Accessed 13 May 2022.
Hyperthyroidism. American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org/hyperthyroidism/. Accessed 13 May 2022.
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