Hyperthyroidism, also referred to as overactive thyroid, results from the overproduction of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. This leads to rapid, unintentional weight loss and fast or irregular heartbeat. The most common therapies for hyperthyroidism are anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine, which slows down the production of thyroid hormones. In some cases, surgery is required to remove the thyroid altogether if more conservative treatments have been unsuccessful.
Generally, hyperthyroidism is classified into the following conditions:
Graves’ disease – Overproduction of thyroid hormones
Toxic adenomas – Nodules develop within the thyroid and begin to secrete additional thyroid hormones
Subacute thyroiditis – Thyroid gland inflammation due to pregnancy, autoimmune conditions, or for unknown reasons that results in “leaking” of excess hormones; typically temporary, but can last weeks or months
Pituitary gland malfunctions or cancerous thyroid growths – Rare, but may result in hyperthyroidism
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:
Unintentional weight loss
Rapid heart rate over 100 beats/minute (tachycardia)
Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
Anxiety, irritability, and nervousness
Tremors in the hands and fingers
Menstrual pattern changes
Increased heat sensitivity
Bowel changes, such as increased frequency
Enlarged thyroid (goiter) which may appear at the base of your neck as swelling
Fatigue and muscle weakness
Fine hair that breaks easily
While proper management of hyperthyroidism can usually mitigate any additional complications, sometimes they do occur. These complications may include heart problems, brittle bones, eye problems, dermopathy (red, swollen skin), and thyrotoxic crisis (fever, rapid pulse, and delirium).
On the other end of the spectrum is hypothyroidism, which is sometimes referred to as underactive thyroid. This condition occurs when your thyroid doesn’t manufacture enough of the thyroid hormones. In its early stages, symptoms may be hardly noticeable, but as the condition advances, symptoms become more apparent. The most common treatment for hypothyroidism is synthetic thyroid hormones to replace what your body is not producing naturally.
As with hyperthyroidism, there are multiple reasons that hypothyroidism may occur, including:
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – An autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack the thyroid tissue, eventually leading to tissue death and the cessation of hormone production
Excessive iodine exposure from cold and sinus medications, amiodarone (heart medication), or certain contrast dyes given before some x-rays; typically more problematic if you’ve had thyroid problems in the past
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
Fatigue and muscle weakness
Increased cold sensitivity
Unexplained weight gain
Puffy facial appearance
Elevated cholesterol levels
Muscle aches, stiffness, and tenderness
Joint pain or swelling
Irregular menstrual periods that may be heavier than normal
Slowed heart rate
Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
Hypothyroidism generally responds very well to a combination treatment, which may include diet changes, supplementation, botanical medicine, and conventional pharmaceuticals when necessary. However, complications of hypothyroidism can occur if left untreated. These complications can include goiter, heart problems due to high LDL cholesterol, depression, peripheral neuropathy leading to pain, numbness, and tingling in the arms and legs, myxedema, infertility, and birth defects.
Dr. Erika Bradshaw can help you achieve a healthy life through the individualized management of your thyroid condition. If you are experiencing the above symptoms and would like to schedule an appointment for a consultation, please give us a call today!