What is hyperthyroidism?

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 16/01/2019
Edited by: Top Doctors®

Hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroids, is characterised by the thyroid gland’s over-production of the hormone thyroxine which plays a key role in the body’s metabolism, temperature, brain development, muscle control, and more. Maintaining the correct levels of thyroxine is essential for your health. Although hyperthyroidism can affect anybody, it typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 50, and is more common in women. 

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid vary from mild to severe, depending on the person, and may evolve gradually over time or occur all of a sudden. In some cases, diagnosing hyperthyroidism can prove difficult as symptoms may appear to be caused by other health conditions. There is a wide variety of hyperthyroidism symptoms, you should seek advice if you are experiencing any of the following:


  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Constant tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Trembling
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Heart palpitations
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Thinning skin

In order to make a diagnosis, a specialist will discuss your symptoms with you and organise a blood test.  


What are the main causes of hyperthyroidism?

In 75% of cases, hyperthyroidism is caused by Graves’ disease. This is an autoimmune condition that can be hereditary, and generally affects women more than men. The immune system malfunctions and begins to attack the body. The thyroid, once it comes under attack, begins to produce excess quantities of thyroxine.

Thyroid nodules are generally benign lumps that grow on the thyroid. As they have extra thyroid tissue in them, they can make the thyroid gland become overactive.

Certain medications can also bring about hyperthyroidism, especially medications containing iodine, as increased levels of iodine is known to cause an overproduction of thyroxine in the thyroid glands.

Other causes of overactive thyroids include thyroid cancer, thyroiditis, and pituitary adenomas.


What are the treatments for hyperthyroidism?

If you have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you will be referred to a specialist if you haven’t already got in touch with one. They will advise you on the best course of treatment for you. Hyperthyroidism treatment varies from case to case. Depending on severity, you will either be prescribed medication, given radioiodine treatment, or undergo surgery.  Hyperthyroidism is generally a treatable condition. 


By Topdoctors
Endocrinology, diabetes & metabolism

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