What is hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is the condition of an overactive thyroid gland, resulting in the production of more thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) than the body needs.


How common is it?

Hyperthyroidism is more common in women and in smokers. Its prevalence is about 1.3%, while in older women it reaches 4-5%.


What are the causes of hyperthyroidism?

The most common causes of hyperthyroidism are:

  • Autoimmune origin- Grave’s disease
  • Autonomous (overactive) thyroid nodule (toxic adenoma), multiple autonomous nodules (toxic multinodular goiter); and
  • various forms of thyroiditis.

If the cause of hyperthyroidism is a thyroiditis, i.e. an inflammation of the thyroid gland, it may be transient, as in postpartum period, called postpartum thyroiditis.


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What are the symptoms and signs of hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism can mimic various diseases as it manifests with a variety of symptoms and signs:

  • Weight loss with increased food intake
  • Fast heartbeat (Tachycardia)
  • Arrhythmia (Irregular heartbeat)
  • Nervousness, anxiety, emotional instability
  • Tremor
  • Sweating
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Menstrual irregularities in women
  • Fatigue
  • Fine brittle hair
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid)
  • Bulging eyes
  • Double vision (Diplopia)
  • Dry eyes, sensitivity to light (photophobia)

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed by blood tests, physical examination and history taking, while specialized imaging studies are required to investigate the cause.


What are the complications of hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism can cause several complications:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Arrhythmias
  • Osteopenia, osteoporosis
  • Ophthalmopathy, double vision, loss of vision
  • Infertility
  • Dermatopathy
  • Thyrotoxic crisis, coma

How is hyperthyroidism treated?

There are 3 treatment options for hyperthyroidism and the choice of the appropriate treatment depends on the cause of hyperthyroidism, comorbidities, age and patient preference. These options are:

  • the anti-thyroid drugs
  • radioactive iodine, and
  • surgical removal of the thyroid gland