Because the disease’s symptoms interfere with an afflicted person’s – usually women – daily routines and day-to-day relationships, people all over the world must be informed of the nature, symptoms, complications and treatment of Hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism, a.k.a Toxic Goiter, is an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person has an over-active thyroid gland involved in overproduction of thyroid hormones. It is more prevalent in women owing to their complex reproductive system and regular hormonal changes during monthly periods. It is also said that stress is a triggering factor for the disease.
The thyroid gland is part of the body’s endocrine system, which is primarily responsible for regulating the body’s metabolic activity. In short, the thyroid gland helps stimulate the cells in the entire body that enable the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, skeletal, muscular, and digestive systems to work efficiently. The thyroid gland secretes two major hormones, T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine), which circulate in the blood. A signal for the release of these hormones originate from the brain through the hypothalamus that releases a hormone called TRH (thyrotropin), which sends a signal to the pituitary to release TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which in turn sends a signal to the thyroid to release the thyroid hormones. Overactivity in any of these glands causes hyperthyroidism.
Signs and Symptoms
Unknown to many people, there is quite a number of incidence of hyperthyroidism all over the world, including death occurrences. However, the disease is not widely recognized owing to the fact that symptoms appear to be normal under certain conditions. Some of these include breathlessness, agitation or nervousness, rapid heart rate or palpitations, excessive sweating or heat intolerance, insomnia, increased bowel movements, irregular or scant menstrual flow, tremors or trembling hands, fatigue, weight loss, hair loss, muscle weakness, decreased concentration, staring gaze, warm moist skin, protruding eyes and an enlarged thyroid.
Aside from these physical changes, hyperthyroidism also has some emotional and behavioral effects. A person may feel emotionally low or high intermittently. Occasional mood swings like depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, excitement, and irritability could also be experienced. Because of this aspect of the disease, in order to protect and save relationships, it would help for a patient’s loved ones to understand the disease as well.
If left untreated, the most severe form of hyperthyroidism is a life-threatening condition called “Thyroid Storm”, which involves nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, high blood pressure, fever and heart failure. More extreme mental changes such as confusion and delirium may also occur. Also, conditions such as severe sepsis or blood infection, pheochromocytoma or tumor in the adrenal gland, and a skeletal muscle disorder known as malignant hyperthermia can take the appearance of thyroid storm. Some causes of thyroid storm are said to be over-replacement of thyroid hormones, radioactive iodine treatment, discontinuance of medications, severe infection or illness and other severe medical conditions accompanying hyperthyroidism.
The above mentioned complications only occur in exceptional instances, and most often than not, the condition can be mitigated by the following treatments:
First, doctors initially resort to Anti-thyroid Drugs and Medication usually consisting of methimazole and propylthiouracil (PTU). Both affect the thyroid gland’s ability to produce T4 and T3 hormones. Some side effects are rashes and itching and on rare occasions and more extreme instances, fever, sore throat and even liver inflammation and jaundice.
In case the first option does not work, an alternative is to have a Radioactive Iodine Treatment. This includes an oral medication that damages or kills thyroid cells that absorb the radioactive form of iodine. Since only thyroid cells absorb iodine in the body, there is very little radiation exposure for the rest of the body cells. The only common side effect is an opposite condition called Hypothyroidism, wherein there is under-production of thyroid hormones due to very little thyroid cells that survive. When this happens, another separate medication would be needed for this.
Another alternative to the second option is Thyroidectomy or Surgical Removal of all or part of the Thyroid Gland. Here, a maintenance drug has to be taken to replace the thyroid hormones. Similarly, surgery also often results in Hypothyroidism. Hardly ever, a major complication is when the voice box near the thyroid gland is disturbed causing the patient to lose his voice.
As one has read through the only known available remedies to date, it will be noticed that there is as yet no total cure for the disease.