The thyroid gland is designed to constantly produce thyroid hormone to regulate metabolic activity and several other vital functions, but when an excess of hormones is produced, several problems can develop. Excessive thyroid hormone production, or thyrotoxicosis, is classified as hyperthyroidism.
The signs and symptoms oftentimes mimic symptoms which are commonly observed in other health complications, and because of this it can be slightly challenging for care providers to accurately diagnosis thyrotoxicosis. The following symptoms have all been commonly associated the condition:
- Heart Palpitations
- Excessive perspiration
- A spike in appetite
- Inexplicable and abrupt weight loss without any significant changes in dietary choices (or possibly even whilst eating more food than normal)
- Unusually high anxiety and/or irritability
- Skin thinning
- Hair follicle breakage
- Disruptions in usual bowel movement regularity
- Significant fatigue and deterioration of muscular strength
Be advised that some who have an over-productive thyroid gland may not exhibit any of the most common symptoms, while others may only have subtle instances of the symptoms.
An overproduction of hormones can be caused by and/or associated with a number of different conditions, including but not limited to the following:
- Postpartum thyroiditis
- Toxic adenoma
- Graves’ disease
In ideal conditions, your thyroid gland’s hormone production should be properly managed by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. A signal from the hypothalamus gives your pituitary gland the signal to begin the hormone release process, and generally, this should be in proportion to the amount that actually need.
Depending on how healthy the thyroid gland is, the amount of thyroid hormone ultimately released at the end of this process may or may not be in-line with what’s actually required. In the case of Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, the reason for overproduction comes from overactive antibodies that exaggerate the demand for hormones; this is the most typical cause for hyperthyroidism found across the board.
Studies have shown that women are typically anywhere from twice to 10 times more at risk for developing hyperthyroidism as men. The elderly, particularly those above the age of 60, will more commonly experience the development of thyroid problems than the younger population. What the annual incidence statistics illustrate is that the demographic at the highest risk of developing thyroid problems is elderly women, though the risk certainly isn’t exclusively limited to that demographic alone.
The most current medical surveys report that roughly .3% to .5% all pregnancies are accompanied by the occurrence of thyroid diseases, and that one out of every 500 pregnancies is affected in some part by thyrotoxicosis.
Hormone replacement therapy is generally reserved for an underproduction of hormones (hypothyroidism). In the case of a thyroid gland that produces too many hormones, different treatment is required. Instead of hormone replacement therapy, anti-hyperthyroidism medication works to reduce hormone production into smaller and less problematic quantities. Radioactive iodine can be taken orally to shrink the thyroid gland over a period of months, and in the meantime, beta blockers can be administered to diminish the occurrence of heart palpitations.