Hyperthyroidism causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced. The result is an increased metabolism with symptoms such as diarrhoea, nervousness, irritability, rapid heartbeat and raised blood pressure. Medication, radiation therapy or a thyroid surgery is used to treat it.
The thyroid, which lies under the larynx, produces important hormones for the metabolism of the body. The most common causes for hyperthyroidism are on the one hand Basedow’s disease, an autoimmune disease. On the other hand, nodules in the thyroid gland which produce too much thyroid hormone unchecked may be the cause of it. No one knows why Basedow’s disease occurs. Nodule formation in the thyroid gland on the other hand is connected with the disturbance of iodine metabolisation in the body. In rare cases, tumours of the thyroid or pituitary gland may be responsible for hyperthyroidism.
In the case of hyperthyroidism, the entire metabolism in the body increases. Symptoms which may point to hyperthyroidism are difficulty sleeping, nervousness, shaking, loss of weight despite good appetite, outbreaks of sweat, diarrhoea, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia. Basedow’s disease causes the characteristic symptoms in the eyes with lacrimation and through to protrusion of the eyes (exophthalmos).
Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms and by measuring the thyroid hormone in the blood. Further examinations such an ultrasound, contrast agent x-rays (scintigraphic scan) or biopsy (tissue sample) are carried out to clarify the cause.
Depending on the symptoms and causes, different treatment options are considered. Initially, hyperthyroidism is usually treated with medication, i.e. thyreostatics. They block the formation or release of the thyroid hormone. If the medical treatment is inadequate, the hyperthyroidism can be treated with radiotherapy (radioiodine therapy). In some cases, when there are thyroid tumours, surgical removable of the thyroid is considered if the thyroid is enlarged or there are numerous nodules with excessive hormone production. Find out more about surgery on the thyroid in the thyroid gland surgery section.