What is hyperthyroidism (high metabolism)?
Hyperthyroidism is a disease, in which the body's metabolism is increased because the thyroid gland produces too much metabolic hormone. The metabolic hormones are produced and stored in the thyroid gland, which is located in the throat around our trachea. Hormones are called thyroxine, which is shortened to T4, and triiodothyronine, which is shortened to T3. The estimated prevalence of hyperthyroidism ranges from 0.1% to 0.5%, and is higher among females than males. The disease often occurs in the age of 20-40.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism affects several organs and can cause the following symptoms:
- Palpitation and inner turmoil
- Fatigue and weakness
- Weight loss despite increased appetite
- Increased sweating
- Loose stools
- Struma (enlarged thyroid gland)
- Menstrual disturbance
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tremors
- Increased pulse
What are the causes of hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is caused by too much metabolic hormone in the blood. There are many different reasons as to why the metabolism hormone level in the blood is too high. For example, it can be caused by an autoimmune disease in which the immune system's cells form substances called antibodies that can bind to and stimulate the thyroid cells to form metabolic hormones. This autoimmune disease is called Graves' disease, and is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism among younger people. The reason as to why the immune system suddenly begins to form these antibodies is still unknown, however, it seems that the condition may be inherited. Another cause of hyperthyroidism is inflammation of the thyroid gland, which causes the gland to increase its hormone production. This condition is called thyroiditis and may occur shortly after birth.
A common cause, especially among elderly people with hyperthyroidism, is that some areas of the thyroid gland lose the sensitivity of those substances in the blood, which stimulate the production of metabolic hormone. The gland will instead (autonomously) begin to produce metabolic hormones completely unregulated. These areas are called hormonal nodes, and the condition is called toxic thyroid nodules. In addition, certain medications and excessive intake of iodine can result in hyperthyroidism.
A rarer cause of high hyperthyroidism, referred to as secondary hyperthyroidism, is caused by an adverse condition in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is the area of the brain, which, among other things, produces the substance called thyroid stimulating hormone that stimulates the cells of the thyroid to form metabolic hormone.
What are the treatment options for hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism can be treated in several ways, and the choice depends on the patient's age, overall health and gland size. However, treatment of hyperthyroidism implies the risk of developing hypothyroidism (low metabolism).
Among other things, the doctor can prescribe medications that are toxic to the thyroid gland. This is called thyrostatics, and it inhibits the production of metabolic hormone, which means that the disease will be under control in 90% of patients within a few weeks. However, this treatment cannot cure toxic thyroid nodules. In the case of a toxic thyroid nodules, radioactive iodine will often be given, which kills the cells that have suddenly begun to produce metabolic hormone completely uncontrolled. The full effect is already achieved after 4-12 weeks. The radioactive iodine does not damage other tissues in the body, and it does not increase the risk of cancer.
Some of the symptoms, for example palpitation and shaking, can be relieved by using Beta blockers. The patient can also choose an operation in the thyroid gland. The entire gland can be removed, and instead the patient can take metabolic hormone tablets daily to compensate. You can live without this gland as long as you take your medicine. However, an operation is typically chosen if there are tumors in the gland, or the gland has grown to a size that makes breathing hassled.