Hyperthyroidism is the condition that occurs if the thyroid is too active, producing excessive levels of thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism is commonly caused by Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition, although other causes must be ruled out.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:
- Hyperactivity, nervousness, irritability
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Excessive sweating
- More frequent bowel movements
- Weight loss or failure to gain normal pregnancy weight
- Muscle weakness
- Eye bulging or irritation
Therapy for hyperthyroidism requires careful individualization and consideration of the patient’s circumstances, including the exact cause of the condition, the patient’s other medical issues, her age and pregnancy plans. Therapies vary greatly and include observation of hormone levels in the mildest cases, use of beta-blockers to mask symptoms, use of anti-thyroid medications to reduce T3 and T4 production, use of radioactive iodine to ablate the thyroid, or removal of the gland or of a hyperactive nodule. Because untreated hyperthyroidism can rarely lead to severely exaggerated thyroid function (thyroid crisis, thyroid storm), patients with hyperthyroidism should have regular follow-up by an endocrinologist.