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Overactive Thyroid

The thyroid gland produces hormones that are responsible for the regulation of the metabolism. If the thyroid is overactive, then it stimulates the metabolism to work at a faster rate then is necessary. This condition is also known as hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism can be caused by Graves’ disease, which is a type of autoimmune disease, inflammation of the thyroid gland, or the use of certain medications. It can also sometimes occur after pregnancy.

An overactive thyroid can have many different effects on the body. Since the thyroid hormones control the rate of the metabolism, which is the system through which the body produces and uses energy, they can affect almost all of the processes that occur in the body. The symptoms of an overactive thyroid include weight loss, intolerance to heat, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, hyperactivity, sweating and hair loss. Another symptom that may occur is goiter, which means that the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck, may become swollen or enlarged. Hyperthyroidism can also affect the nervous system, causing symptoms such as tremors, and the eyes, sometimes resulting in retraction of the eyelids or protrusion of the eye. The symptoms that are experienced by individual patients with overactive thyroid glands can be very different, and they can change over time. The symptoms generally appear gradually and may at first be confused for simple stress or nervousness.

The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism usually requires blood tests to measure the levels of thyroid hormones and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, the hormone that regulates the activity of the thyroid gland, in the blood. This enables the doctor to determine whether the thyroid gland is overactive and to work out the likely reason for the problem.

An overactive thyroid can be treated by antithyroid drugs such as methimazole to suppress the activity of the thyroid gland. It may also be treated with radioactive iodine to permanently disable the thyroid tissue, of by surgical removal of the thyroid gland. All of the treatments that are used to combat hyperthyroidism may result in the thyroid gland become under active, even if the thyroid gland does not have to be permanently disabled or removed. The patient will then need to take daily doses of synthetic or animal derived thyroid hormones since they will no longer be able to produce these hormones themselves. They will have an under active thyroid or hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism can also follow hyperthyroidism that has occurred due to inflammation. The inflammation may initially cause the thyroid gland to produce higher levels of thyroid hormones, but as the tissue of the thyroid gland becomes more damaged, production of the thyroid hormones will drop until they are below normal levels.


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