The thyroid is a small endocrine gland, meaning it makes hormones, and is located in the neck, right by the Adam’s apple. It is often referred to as the ‘master gland’ in the body because the hormones it produces, T4 and T3, regulate so many essential bodily functions. These range from our metabolism, to our menstrual cycles, to our moods, to our heart rate, to our GI tract. The thyroid gland help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working normally.
Hyperthyroidism refers to any condition in which the body has too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms may include weight loss, nervousness, irritability, increased perspiration, a racing heart, hand tremors, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, increased bowel movements, fine brittle hair, and muscular weakness—especially in the upper arms and thighs. In Graves' disease, a bulging of one or both eyes may occur.
The most common cause is Graves' disease. Another cause is one or more overactive nodules or lumps in the thyroid, a condition known as toxic nodular or multinodulargoiter. Finally, you may temporarily have hyperthyroid symptoms if you have thyroiditis, which causes the gland to leak thyroid hormone, or if you take too much thyroid hormone in tablet form.
Therapy for hyperthyroidism is generally safe and effective, but no one treatment is best for all patients with hyperthyroidism.
- Antithyroid drugs. Methimazole (Tapazole®) or propylthiouracil (PTU) block the thyroid gland's ability to make new thyroid hormone. These drugs allow prompt control of hyperthyroidism and do not cause permanent damage to the thyroid gland. Allergic reactions occur in about 5% of patients. Rarely (1 in 500 patients), a serious reaction (agranulocytosis) may lower your resistance to infection. If you develop a fever or sore throat while on an antithyroid drug, you should immediately stop taking the drug and have a white blood cell count that day.
- Radioactive iodine. Radioiodine, which is administered by mouth, is quickly taken up by overactive thyroid cells and destroys them. It tastesless, colorless, waterlike solution. Patient drinks it with a straw like soft drink or juice. The radioiodine that is not taken up by the thyroid cells disappears from the body within couple of days.Radioiodine often takes several weeks to several months to control hyperthyroidism (during which time antithyroid drug treatment may be used to control hyperthyroid symptoms), and occasionally additional radioiodine treatments may be necessary. This is the most common therapy for hyperthyroidism in the United States. We have treated more than 5000 patients with therapy by now and not found any adverse effects. In fact we treat many young patients with this treatment as the FIRST LINE TREATMENT immediately after diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism is established with Thyroid Scan.
- Surgery. Before surgery an antithyroid drug or a beta-blocking drug is taken to control your hyperthyroidism. Major complications of thyroid surgery occur in less than 1% of patients operated on by an experienced thyroid surgeon. During surgery, most of the thyroid gland is removed to control the hyperthyroidism. Damage to the parathyroid glands that control your body's calcium levels and damage to the nerves that control your vocal cords, which would cause you to have a hoarse voice, are rare.
- Beta-blockers. These drugs may be helpful in reducing symptoms of a racing heart, the shakes, and nervousness, even though they do not change the high levels of thyroid hormone in your blood.