Hyperthyroidism is a disease in which the thyroid either makes too much thyroid hormone or releases too much of it. Both may be caused by inflammation or destruction of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the center of the neck, in front of the trachea (windpipe). The thyroid has a left and a right lobe and uses iodine to make hormones that help regulate body metabolism, temperature, heart rate, and growth rate.
The disease is more common in women.
Hyperthyroidism can be caused by other underlying issues, such as Graves’ disease, a toxic multinodular goiter, or toxic adenoma.
Causes of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism can be caused by either overproduction of thyroid hormone or excessive release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland due to inflammation and/or destruction.
The following conditions are the most common causes:
- Graves' disease: Graves’ disease is an autoimmune issue where the body's immune system overstimulates the thyroid, causing the overproduction of thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. An antibody (TSH-R Ab) to the TSH receptor causes the thyroid to overproduce thyroid hormone.
- Toxic Multinodular Goiter: Hyperthyroidism due to toxic multinodular goiter occurs when one or more of the nodules causing the goiter to make too much thyroid hormone. Cases of hyperthyroidism caused by a toxic multinodular goiter tend to be less severe than those caused by Graves’ disease.
- Toxic Adenoma: Toxic adenoma is a single nodule in an otherwise normal thyroid gland that makes too much thyroid hormone. It is the least common cause of hyperthyroidism.
A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease. Different diseases have different risk factors. Some risk factors can be controlled with lifestyle changes. Other risk factors cannot be changed.
Some risk factors for developing hyperthyroidism include:
- Graves’ disease
- Gender: women are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism
- Age: hyperthyroidism can happen at any age but is more predominant in people over 60.
- Family history: having a family history of Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism increases the risk for developing the condition.
Having one or more of the above risk factors does not mean that you will develop hyperthyroidism. Understanding your risk factors will help you determine, what, if any, precautions and special screening you should consider.
If you have hyperthyroidism, you may experience:
- Anxiety Insomnia (inability to sleep through the night)
- Heart palpitations
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Heat intolerance
- Excessive sweating
- Menstrual changes
If you have one or more of the above symptoms, it does not mean that you have hyperthyroidism. If you think you have this disease, please call your doctor.
Minimal access thyroidectomy is used in the treatment of hyperthyroidism. This procedure removes of a portion of the thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule through a mini (3–4 cm) incision rather than through a larger (5–10 cm) open incision. The procedure can be performed under general anesthesia or local analgesia with sedation. Recovery time and postoperative discomfort is significantly reduced. In most cases, the small incision is very cosmetic within twelve months. Not all patients are candidates for minimal access surgery. Speak to your surgeon to determine the best approach for you.
If surgery is not the right option for you, speak with your endocrinologist to determine the proper treatment plan.