Hyperthyroidism

Definition

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone. The condition is often called overactive thyroid.

Causes

The thyroid gland is an important organ of the endocrine system. It is located at the front of the neck just above where your collarbones meet. The gland makes the hormones that control the way every cell in the body uses energy. This process is called metabolism.

Many diseases and conditions can cause hyperthyroidism, including:

Symptoms

Common symptoms include:

Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will do a physical exam. The exam may find the following:

Blood tests are also ordered to measure your thyroid hormones TSH, T3, and T4.

You may also have blood tests to check: 

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause and the severity of symptoms. Hyperthyroidism is usually treated with one or more of the following:

If your thyroid is removed with surgery or destroyed with radiation, you must take thyroid hormone replacement pills for the rest of your life.

Medicines called beta-blockers may be prescribed to treat symptoms such as fast heart rate, sweating, and anxiety until the hyperthyroidism can be controlled.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Hyperthyroidism is treatable. Some of its causes may go away without treatment.

Hyperthyroidism caused by Graves disease usually gets worse over time. It has many complications, some of which are severe and affect quality of life.

Possible Complications

Thyroid crisis (storm), also called thyrotoxicosis, is a sudden worsening of hyperthyroidism symptoms that may occur with infection or stress. Fever, decreased alertness, and abdominal pain may occur. Patients need to be treated in the hospital.

Other complications of hyperthyroidism include:

Surgery-related complications, including:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Go to an emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911), if you have:

Call your health care provider if you are being treated for hyperthyroidism and you develop symptoms of underactive thyroid, including:


Review Date: 6/7/2013
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.