Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. The extra thyroid hormone causes your metabolism to speed up. This may seem like a good thing, but when your body works too hard it can take a toll on your heart, bones, and mood. Hyperthyroidism has three forms that share several symptoms. The most common form is Graves disease. Hyperthyroidism can also occur from taking too much thyroid hormone when you are being treated for hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is more common in women than men, and usually occurs after age 60.
Signs and Symptoms
What Causes It?
Researchers suspect that Graves disease (the most common form of hyperthyroidism) is caused by an antibody that mistakenly stimulates the thyroid to produce too much hormone. Graves disease is associated with many autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Toxic nodular goiter is caused by a noncancerous tumor in nodules that make up the thyroid gland. Secondary hyperthyroidism results when the pituitary (a small gland located at the base of the brain that regulates the release of hormones from several other glands) overrides the thyroid's normal instructions, and orders it to make too much thyroid hormone. Other causes include excessive thyroid hormone taken to treat hypothyroidism.
What to Expect at Your Doctor's Office
Your doctor will ask you to extend your fingers to see if you have an obvious tremor. Your doctor will also examine your thyroid gland while you swallow. A blood test can confirm that you have elevated levels of thyroid hormone. Your doctor may also order a radioactive iodine uptake test to determine why your thyroid is producing too much hormone.
Your doctor will most likely prescribe a single dose of liquid radioactive iodine, which calms down your thyroid gland. Often the thyroid then becomes underactive. Up to half of patients who receive radioactive iodine treatments for an overactive thyroid develop permanent hypothyroidism within a year of therapy. Such patients may have to take replacement thyroid hormone. Alternatively, your doctor may give you thyroid depressive medication. Your doctor may also prescribe beta-blockers to help slow a rapid heartbeat. If drug treatment fails, you may need surgery to remove part of your thyroid. If so, you will need to take replacement thyroid hormone.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies may be effective at minimizing symptoms of mild thyroid dysfunction. Keep your doctors informed about any complementary or alternative treatment (CAM) you are taking. Some CAM therapies can interfere with conventional medical therapies. Work with a provider who is knowledgeable in complementary medicine to find the right mix of treatments for you. If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, do not use any CAM therapies unless directed to do so by your physician.
Nutrition and Supplements
Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
You may address nutritional deficiencies with the following supplements:
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your doctor before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). People with a history of alcoholism should not take tinctures. Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures singly or in combination as noted. If you are pregnant or nursing, speak to your doctor before using any herbal products.
Avoid the following herbs:
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider remedies for the treatment of symptoms based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account your constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for you.
Acupuncture may help correct hormonal imbalances.
Therapeutic massage may help relieve stress.
Thyroid problems during pregnancy can cause serious complications. Some patients with hyperthyroid disease experience a decline in bone mineral density. This can be reversed after treatment for hyperthyroidism.
Complications of hyperthyroidism include irregular heart beats (atrial fibrilation), heart disease, and osteoporosis. Untreated Graves disease can also lead to vision loss and blindness.
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Review Date: 4/27/2016
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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