Thyroid hyperfunction (hyperthyroidism) causes the thyroid to produce too many hormones. As the thyroid hormones affect our metabolism, symptoms such as sleep disorders, nervousness, increased sweating or weight loss occur as a result. The cause of the discomfort is in most cases either an autonomy of the thyroid gland or the autoimmune disease Graves' disease. If the hyperthyroidism is treated properly, a normal life is usually possible for those affected.
Function of the thyroid gland
The thyroid gland produces the vital hormones triiodothyronine and thyroxine that are vital to us humans. They affect many important processes in the body, such as the circulation, metabolism and growth, but also our psychological well-being. The release of thyroid hormones into the blood is regulated by a pituitary-derived hormone (TSH).
If the thyroid gland produces too few hormones, this is called hypothyroidism. If the opposite is the case and too many hormones are produced, this is called hyperthyroidism.
Causes of hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism may be due to various causes. In about 95 percent of cases, symptoms typical of hyperthyroidism are caused by Graves' disease or autonomy of the thyroid gland. However, there are other rare causes that can hide behind hyperthyroidism. These include:
- an inflammation of the thyroid gland
- hormone-producing tumors
- too high a dose of thyroid hormone therapy
Graves' disease as the cause
Graves 'disease - also known as Graves' disease - is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system produces antibodies against the thyroid gland. These attach to certain surface cells of the thyroid gland where they occupy the space of the pituitary hormone TSH, which normally regulates the production of thyroid hormones.
Although the antibodies also stimulate the thyroid hormone-producing cells, they now produce hormones regardless of their actual needs. The result is hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid autonomy as a cause
When thyroid autonomy is autonomic, it forms hormones on its own and is no longer controlled by the pituitary gland. Such autonomy may affect either the entire thyroid gland or just isolated areas called autonomic adenomas.
Thyroid autonomy is often caused by iodine deficiency. If there is too little iodine in the body, the thyroid tries to compensate for the deficiency by growth: There is an enlargement of the thyroid (goiter) and nodular changes in the tissue.
Typical symptoms of hyperthyroidism
One of the typical symptoms that can occur in the context of hyperthyroidism is an enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter). Symptoms such as hoarseness, dysphagia, as well as problems with buttoning the collar button make an enlarged thyroid gland noticeable. Such goiter occurs in about 70 to 90 percent of all those affected.
The increased production of thyroxine and triiodothyronine accelerates the metabolism. Other typical signs of hyperthyroidism are therefore:
- increased sweating
- sleep disorders
- accelerated pulse
- high blood pressure
- lack of concentration
In addition, weight loss often occurs despite an increased appetite. In addition, symptoms such as diarrhea, hair loss as well as muscle pain and muscle weakness may occur.
Typical symptoms of Basov's disease
In Graves' disease, in addition to the symptoms already mentioned, it can also lead to a doughy swelling of the skin on the lower legs - a so-called myxedema.
In addition, the disease is especially noticeable in the eyes: It shows symptoms such as a foreign body sensation, photosensitivity, increased lacrimation and an uncomfortable feeling of pressure. Frequently, the eyes also look forward, which makes the gaze look fixed and staring.
Thyrotoxic crisis as a complication
In rare cases, a thyrotoxic crisis may be a complication of hyperthyroidism. Such a crisis is first manifested by a high fever, an increased heart rate, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as restlessness and anxiety. Later, impaired consciousness may occur - in the worst case, the patient may lose consciousness (thyrotoxic coma).
Since a thyrotoxic crisis is a life-threatening condition, a doctor should be notified immediately.
A thyrotoxic crisis is often triggered by the administration of iodine-containing drugs or X-ray contrast media. In addition, as possible causes but also infections, surgery, stressful situations, pregnancy and discontinuation of thyroid medicines in question.