Hyperthyroidism - all the facts


Not to be confused with the more common condition Hypothyroidism (too little production of thyroid hormones), Hyperthyroidism is a condition where there is excessive production of thyroid hormones. This can be for a few different reasons. It can be caused by overproduction of thyroid hormone due to the autoimmune disease “Graves’ Disease”, Thyroiditis, thyroid nodules, or it can also be caused by taking too much thyroid hormone, iodine supplements or an anti-arrythmic medication known as Amiodarone.


Symptoms include increased restlessness, agitation, anxiety, tremors, increased appetite and weight loss, sweating, increased heart rate, intolerance to heat and frequent bowel movements.[1]

In the UK about 2% of women and 0.2% of men are affected by hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease accounts for 80% of hyperthyroidism in iodine-replete areas [3]


There are two types of Hyperthyroidism:

1. Overt hyperthyroidism, where the body may have low levels of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and high levels of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. With this type of overactive thyroid, you probably experience symptoms.

2. Subclinical hyperthyroidism is where there may be low levels of TSH but normal levels of thyroxine and triiodothyronine and no symptoms are displayed. This can also be caused by early pregnancy, smoking and use of drugs like high dose glucocorticoids or dopamine [3].


Anti-TPO antibodies, suggesting the presence of Autoimmune Thyroid Disease have been reported in up to 12% of healthy populations. Follow-up studies on these individuals show a steady progression to development of subclinical or overt thyroid dysfunction over time. [3]


Current allopathic treatments are antithyroid medication, radioactive thyroid ablation and thyroid/partial thyroid removal surgery. Thionamides (carbimazole or propylthiourscil) are the medications used to suppress the thyroid gland and reduce the production of thyroxine and triiodothyronine (by interfering with the iodination process). Some of the potential symptoms of these medications may include a mild skin rash, joint pain, nausea and itchy skin. Carbimazole is the anti-thyroid drug authorised in Ireland. Beta-blockers can also be used to alleviate symptoms such as tremors, rapid heartbeat and hyperactivity and is usually a temporary measure whilst waiting for further treatment or medications to start taking effect.[3]


Uncontrolled Hyperthyroidism can lead to other health problems such as irregular heart rhythms and osteoporosis. A thyroid storm is a serious health condition associated with an untreated or undertreated hyperthyroid that can prove fatal. [4]


There is also an unusual condition called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, that generally occurs in patients with hyperthyroidism due to Graves’ disease, that is a serious and potentially sight-threatening autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the orbit and periorbital tissues in the eyes. [5]


Hyperthyroidism can be a very serious condition and must be closely monitored by health professionals. If planning a pregnancy, your health professional should be contacted as medications may need adjusting.


Lifestyle, stress management and diet can play a role in supporting overall health. 




[1] https://www.medicinenet.com/hyperthyroidism/article.htm

[2] https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/h/hyperthyroidism/

[3]http://www.stjames.ie/GPsHealthcareProfessionals/Newsletters/NMICBulletins/NMICBulletins2014/

[4] https://www.healthline.com/health/thyroid-storm

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3902010/


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