Thyroid Guide – Overactive Thyroid: The thyroid or the thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body. It is an organ that is found on the anterior side of the neck. It is derived from the Greek word, thyreo, which means shield. A thyreo is a Greek army shield shaped like a door. Another way to define the thyroid gland would be, an endocrine gland consisting of two lobes, one on each side of the trachea, joined by a narrow isthmus, producing hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine), which require iodine for their elaboration and are concerned in regulating metabolic rate; it also secretes calcitonin.
A calcitonin is a peptide hormone, produced by the thyroid gland in humans that acts to lower plasma calcium and phosphate levels without augmenting calcium accretion, also called thyrocalcitonin. The thyroid gland shields us from the chemical reactions in our body. The notch on the upper part of your Adam’s apple is where your thyroid is. It moves in position during swallowing.
The thyroid gland is firmly attached to the trachea which is the reason why it moves when we swallow. The thyroid controls the sensitivity of our body to other hormones and how our body uses up energy. It produces thyroid hormones which regulate the rate of metabolism. It also affects the growth and function rate of the other systems in the body.
An overactive thyroid is also known as hyperthyroidism. This thyroid disorder means that the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone needed in the body. The thyroid gland controls the pace of one’s body process such as metabolism. Women are more likely to have overactive thyroid gland the men.
When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, metabolism increases. This makes an individual who has hyperthyroidism gain weight. Others feel fatigue but have trouble or difficulty in sleeping. An individual who is able to notice or feel any hyperthyroidism is considered lucky enough as some people do not have any idea that they are already suffering from a thyroid disorder.
Interesting Questions about Thyroid:
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland just below the Adam’s apple. This gland plays a very important role in controlling the body’s metabolism, that is, how the body functions. It does this by producing thyroid hormones (T4 and T3), chemicals that travel through the blood to every part of the body. Thyroid hormones tell the body how fast to work and use energy.
The thyroid gland works like an air conditioner. If there are enough thyroid hormones in the blood, the gland stops making the hormones (just as an air conditioner cycles off when there is enough cool air in a house). When the body needs more thyroid hormones, the gland starts producing again.
About 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Many are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. No age, economic group, race, or sex is immune to thyroid disease.
The thyroid gland might produce too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), making the body use energy faster than it should, or too little hormone (hypothyroidism), making the body use energy slower than it should. The gland may also become inflamed (thyroiditis) or enlarged (goiter), or develop one or more lumps (nodules).
|Fact:||Two of the most common thyroid diseases, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease, are autoimmune diseases and may run in families.|
|Fact:||Hypothyroidism is 10 times more common in women than in men.|
|Fact:||One out of five women over the age of 75 has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism.|
|Fact:||Thyroid dysfunction complicates 5%-9% of all pregnancies.|
|Fact:||About 15,000 new cases of thyroid cancer are reported each year.|
|Fact:||One out of every 4,000 infants is born without a working thyroid gland.|
The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone pills. The pills provide the body with the right amount of thyroid hormone when the gland is not able to produce enough by itself. While the symptoms of hypothyroidism are usually corrected within a few months, most patients need to take the pills for the rest of their lives.
The preferred thyroid hormone for treatment is levothyroxine (T4). You should use only the brand-name that your doctor prescribes, since generic brands may not be as reliable. Name brand levothyroxine pills include Levothroid®, Synthroid®, Levoxyl®, and Eltroxin®.
Patients sometimes take more pills than they should, trying to speed up the treatment or lose weight. However, this can lead to hyperthyroidism, a disease in which there is too much thyroid hormone in the blood, and to long-term complications, such as osteoporosis. You should take the pills as your doctor prescribes.
At different times in your life, you may need to take different amounts of thyroid hormones. Therefore, you should see your doctor once a year to make sure everything is all right.
® Levothroid is a registered trademark of Forest Pharmaceuticals.
® Synthroid is a registered trademark of Knoll Pharmaceuticals.
® Levoxyl is a registered trademark of Jones Medical Industries.
® Eltroxin is a registered trademark of Roberts Pharmaceuticals.
The eye changes associated with Graves’ disease can be called either Graves’ ophthalmopathy, Graves’ orbitopathy, or Graves’ eye disease. Approximately 50% of the patients with Graves’ disease develop some eye disease, but the eye changes may be so subtle that patients are unaware of them. For most patients with Graves’ disease, eye involvement is minimal. Severe orbitopathy occurs in less than 5% of patients with Graves’ disease.
Graves’ eye disease is not caused by thyroid dysfunction. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the eyes and the thyroid gland independently of each other. Thus, the hyperthyroidism may improve with therapy, while the eye disease stays the same or gets worse. Even though the thyroid disease and the eye disease run independent courses, it is important to treat the hyperthyroidism associated with Graves’ disease.
An ophthalmologist is usually involved in the treatment of Graves’ eye disease. Most thyroidologists and endocrinologists should be able to recommend an ophthalmologist experienced in the treatment of Graves’ eye disease. In addition, The Thyroid Society maintains a list of such ophthalmologists throughout the country.
Symptoms of Graves’ eye disease may include a feeling of irritation or sand in the eyes, double vision (diplopia), and excessive tearing. Inflammation and swelling behind the eye may cause actual protrusion of the eyeball from the orbit. When this protrusion occurs, it is called exophthalmos or proptosis.
When the eye changes are severe, there may be marked swelling of the eye, inability to move an eye, corneal ulceration, and in extreme cases, loss of vision. Fortunately, these severe changes occur infrequently, but when they do occur, consultation with an ophthalmologist is essential. Graves’ eye disease usually affects both eyes, although each eye may be affected to a different degree. In some cases, only one eye is affected.
The course of Graves’ eye disease is unpredictable. The initial, or active, phase of Graves’ eye disease may last for eighteen to twenty-four months. During this time period, the eye signs and symptoms may change considerably. For this reason, physicians are reluctant to use certain treatments, such as surgery, during this phase, fearing that ongoing inflammation will cause the eyes to change again after surgery. Thus, most physicians advise patients to defer treatments such as surgery until the eye disease goes into an inactive phase. Of course, if a patient’s symptoms are severe or if loss of vision is threatened, then all available treatments will be used at any time, even during the active phase.
Most patients will receive only symptomatic treatment during the active phase of Graves’ eye disease (see list below). Most importantly, it should be stressed that smoking aggravates Graves’ eye disease.
Physicians may advise the following to relieve symptoms associated with Graves’ eye disease:
- discontinue smoking
- avoid smoke-filled rooms
- use lubricating eye drops
- cover eyes while sleeping
- wear wrap-around dark glasses outdoors during the day
- elevate the head of the bed to reduce overnight eye swelling
- wear prism glasses, or cover one eye with a patch, to relieve double vision
- turn ceiling fans off before going to bed
- avoid exposure to strong sunlight
- avoid or limit wearing contact lenses
- take diuretics temporarily to relieve swelling around the eyes
When symptoms of inflammation are severe, either steroids in large doses or radiation therapy may be advised. Surgery (orbital decompression) is sometimes recommended when the inflammation is so severe that loss of vision is threatened. The choice of therapy among steroids, radiation, and surgery (used individually or in combination) and the timing of therapy require a great deal of thought on the part of the team caring for the patient with Graves’ eye disease.
Once the inflammation in the eyes has stabilized, or entered the inactive phase, patients may then have surgery to relieve signs and symptoms, such as lid retraction, swelling around the eyes, or double vision. Ophthalmologists specializing in plastic surgery of the eye perform the surgery to relieve lid retraction and swelling around the eyes. Sometimes other ophthalmologists who specialize in diseases of the muscles of the eye perform the operation(s) to relieve double vision.
Medical and Surgical Treatment Options for Graves’ Eye Disease
- radiation therapy
- surgical adjustment of eyelid placement
- plastic surgery for swelling around the eye(s)
- eye muscle surgery for realignment of the eye(s)
- orbital decompression
Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ
Signs and Symptoms of an Overactive Thyroid
Most people don’t feel any symptoms. Others can just lose weight and just feel depressed for no reason at all. Below are the common symptoms one feels when suffering with hyperthyroidism:
- Staring Gaze
- Heat Intolerance
- Inability to Sleep
- Fast Heart Rate
- Muscle Weakness
- Weight Loss
- Trembling Hands
- Hair Loss
- Warm Moist Skin
- Light or Absent Menstrual Periods
- Nervousness or Irritability
- Decreased Libido
If you feel any of these symptoms it is best to seek medical help. With this, one may be provided enough and proper information about hyperthyroidism or any possible thyroid disorders. In that case, should one be suspecting thyroid problems due to the symptoms they feel, a physician can run a thyroid test to check an individual’s thyroid function. Symptoms felt can be raised also for it to be addressed properly. Once the thyroid disorder is diagnosed, the attending physician will then provide the necessary treatment and medication to help treat hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid FAQ & Links to Related Articles
|There are four parathyroid glands that are normally having the size of a single rice grain. In some normal cases, they can be as big as the size of a pea.|
|Also called underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism is a disorder that is characterized by abnormal level of thyroid hormones in the body, which is too low.|
|The thyroid is a butterfly (pear)-shaped gland, it consists of 2 symmetrical lobes joined by a central isthmus that normally covers the 2nd & 3rd tracheal rings.|
|Congenital hypothyroidism is a thyroid gland disorder that may lead to deafness or mental retardation if left undetected.|
|Hypothyroidism can cause depression. Most people don?t realize that this feeling is depression caused by the thyroid gland not functioning as it should.|
|Papillary thyroid cancer is one of the thyroid cancer types. This type of thyroid cancer arises from the follicles in the thyroid gland.|
|The thyroid gland is located immediately below the larynx on each side of and anterior to the trachea. It is one of the largest of the endocrine glands|
|These thyroid hormones are responsible in regulating the body?s metabolism, which is how much food will be broken down into useful energy for consumption.|
|When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, one may suffer from hyperthyroidism.|
|The thyroid stimulating hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. The thyroid stimulating hormone promotes the growth of the thyroid gland.|
|Thyroid hormones are chemical substances produced by the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck.|
|Natural thyroid supplements are helpful as a remedy to thyroid disorders. Its natural ingredients assure one of its safeties in taking it.|
|The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that is the primary responsible in regulating the body?s metabolism.|
|Thyroid surgery is used to treat people with thyroid problems such as thyroid cancer, thyroid nodules and hyperthyroidism.|
|Thyroid tests or thyroid function tests are done to check the thyroid function in one?s body. A doctor will be able to determine and diagnose the thyroid disorder.|
|Treatment for thyroid disorders should be done to prevent unwanted results caused by the severity of the condition. Consult a physician for more of these treatments.|
|Thyroidectomy is a surgical process wherein the whole or a part of the thyroid gland is removed. This surgical process is used to treat thyroid disorders.|
|Having an underactive thyroid is a minor problem but it seeks proper attention to avoid further health problems. Consult a physician about any thyroid problem.|
|Low thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, is a condition where the thyroid gland is under active.|
|Following a healthy meal plan, exercise and proper medication goes hand in hand to treat hypothyroidism. Consult a physician for a more individualized plan.|
|Each thyroid cancer treatment depends on the type of thyroid cancer and the extent or stage of the thyroid cancer one is suffering from.|
|Parathyroid hormones are considered to be the most important endocrine regulator. It basically regulates the calcium and phosphorus concentration in the body.|
|Studies show that since 1925, the standard treatment for parathyroid disease is to surgically remove the parathyroid gland(s) which are overproducing parathyroid hormones.|
|Parathyroid adenoma is a small tumor of the parathyroid gland and is known to be the most common disorder of the gland.|
|Medullary thyroid cancer is one of the types of thyroid cancer. This type of thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men.|
|Most people don?t feel any symptoms. Others can just lose weight and just feel depressed for no reason at all.|
|Suppose you go in for a routine checkup and your doctor decides to test your thyroid function. You?ve experienced no thyroid disease symptoms|
|Hypothyroidism develops for over a long period of time. It?s normally from several months to even several years.|
|People who are suffering from hypothyroidism are advised to get plenty of exercise and have a balanced and healthy diet. The diet must be rich in protein and iodine.|
|Self medicating one?s thyroid disorder with hypothyroidism diet pills without proper information of the diet pill does not address the problem.|
|Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces too much thyroid hormones more than the body needs.|
|Hypothyroidism is one of the chronic diseases in the world. Hypothyroidism is also known as underactive thyroid; hypo means under or below normal.|
|Anaplastic thyroid cancer is a type of thyroid cancer that is rare and aggressive. It affects the thyroid gland and most especially its function.|
|Problems arise if the thyroid gland is overactive or underactive. There are three common thyroid disorders. These are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and the thyroid nodules.|
Thyroid Hair Loss
|Hair loss may happen for so many reasons but it is commonly associated to thyroid problems such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.|
|Thyroid Function Tests are the different tests conducted to assess and determine the cause of an individual?s thyroid problems.|