Health and MedicineDiseasesHyperthyroidism: what is an overactive thyroid, symptoms and causes?

Hyperthyroidism: what is an overactive thyroid, symptoms and causes?

Hyperthyroidism, or hyperactivity of the thyroid gland (also known as thyrotoxicosis), appears for certain reasons, generating a series of symptoms that require specific treatments.

It is quite common to hear about both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, two disorders that can be diagnosed from a blood test (when in doubt, remember that it is easy to understand blood tests).

However, as many medical specialists affirm, it is much more common to hear about  hypothyroidism, rather than hyperthyroidism itself in particular.

What is hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism, a condition known as ‘overactive thyroid’, is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone.

The thyroid gland is an important organ within our endocrine system, producing two hormones: thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Basically both hormones control the way in which the cells of our body use energy, which is called metabolism. For this reason, problems with the thyroid gland can cause a person to suddenly gain or lose weight without any other specific medical cause.

Causes of overactive thyroid

Before talking about the main causes that influence the appearance of hyperthyroidism, it is convenient to keep in mind that hyperthyroidism appears when the thyroid gland releases too much of its hormones.

Depending on the amount of hormones it releases, if it is released in a short period of time it is called acute hyperthyroidism, and if it is long, it is called chronic hyperthyroidism.

The main causes are the following:

  • Excessive intake of iodine.
  • Graves’ disease (one of the most common, consisting of an autoimmune disorder that causes an overactive thyroid gland).
  • Inflammation of the thyroid due to viral infections or other causes (thyroiditis).
  • Consumption of large amounts of thyroid hormone.
  • Noncancerous tumors of the thyroid or pituitary gland.
  • Tumors of the ovaries or testicles.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism

It is necessary to take into account that, over time, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism  tend to worsen, even affecting the person’s quality of life, although it is generally curable with treatment and tends to disappear:

  • Fatigue and general tiredness
  • Difficult to focus
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid that is visible or can be touched)
  • thyroid nodules
  • frequent bowel movements
  • heat intolerance
  • increased sweating
  • increased appetite
  • General restlessness and nervousness
  • In women irregularities in menstruation
  • Weightless

The above can be considered as symptoms that, as a whole, can help your diagnosis, although the following may also appear:

  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Hand tremor and weakness
  • Arterial hypertension
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Bulging eyes
  • hot or red skin
  • Difficulty to sleep
  • sticky skin

How is the treatment of hyperthyroidism?

Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the person’s symptoms, although it is usually treated with:

  • ant thyroid medications
  • Radioiodine
  • Surgery to remove the thyroid: in case of removal, the person must take thyroid hormone replacement pills for life.


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