What is Hyperthyroidism - Symptoms and Causes

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Our thyroid is shaped like a butterfly and located in front of our throat, just below our larynx. The thyroid gland produces, stores and releases thyroid hormones into our bloodstream. There are 2 main hormones:
  • T3 (tri-iodothyronine)
  • T4 (thyroxine)

T3 and T4 are crucial for the following functions:-
  • for our body's metabolism
  • affects our breathing, brain development, heartbeat, nervous system, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles and weight.

Our thyroid gland also produces a hormone called calcitonin, which affects our blood calcium level.
Thyroid hormone production is governed by our pituitary gland in our brain through TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).

What is Hyperthyroidism?

It happens when we have too much T4 or T3 circulating in our blood stream. The T4 or T3 can be overproduced by our thyroid glands either on its own, or because it's overstimulated by too much TSH circulating in our bodies.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
  • nervousness or irritability
  • frequent mood swings
  • insomnia
  • get tired easily
  • inability to tolerate heat
  • trembling of hand at rest
  • palpitations or rapid heartbeat
  • frequent bowel movements
  • loss of weight despite a good appetite

    Causes of Hyperthyroidism

    1) Grave's disease. Most common cause. Happens when our body's own immune system attacks the thyroid tissue and cells. In this disease, our body makes an antigen called TSI (thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin) which mimics the TSH and causes our body to make too much thyroxine.

    2) Thyroid nodules growing in 1 or more lobes of the thyroid gland.
    Adenoma - benign thyroid nodules. Don't produce hormones.
    Toxic adenoma - overactive thyroid nodules that produce excessive hormones.
    Toxic multinodular goitre - multiple nodules which are overactive.

    3) Thyroiditis. This inflammation of the thyroid gland causes the thyroid hormones to leak out of the gland into the bloodstream.

    4) Eating too much iodine, e.g. from medications like amiodarone for heart rhythm irregularities, certain cough syrups, seaweed supplement.

    Source: Thyroid Overload by Dr Y.L.M., Star2 Health 2 November 2011

    For info on the "opposite" problem, check out this article What are the Symptoms and Causes of Hypothyroidism.


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