Could you have an overactive thyroid?

January 16, 2019 | by Samir Undevia, MD

Have you noticed that you feel anxious lately, you’re sensitive to heat, or you’re losing weight with no known cause? It could have something to do with how your thyroid is functioning.

Your thyroid gland, located in your neck, controls every aspect of your body’s metabolism. Your body’s thyroid gland is busy at work regulating the amount of thyroid hormones that flow into your bloodstream, but sometimes your thyroid doesn’t always work correctly.

In hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland is underactive, meaning it can’t make enough hormones to function well. This, in turn, slows your metabolism and can cause symptoms like weight gain, tiredness and depression.

With hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, your thyroid gland is overactive, and produces too much of the thyroid hormones. This accelerates your body’s metabolism and can cause one or more of these symptoms:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Nervousness, irritability
  • Fatigue, tiredness, muscle weakness
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Shaky hands
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
  • Increased appetite

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can resemble those of other health problems, so it’s important to get any changes to your health checked out by your doctor. In people over age 60, hyperthyroidism may cause other symptoms, such as loss of appetite or withdrawal from people.

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder that most commonly affects women under age 40. This condition can also lead to Graves’ ophthalmology, which affects tissues and muscles behind the eyes.

There are a variety of options used to treat hyperthyroidism, including antithyroid medications and thyroid surgery. If it’s not treated, hyperthyroidism can lead to serious problems with the heart, bones, muscles, menstrual cycle and fertility.

Even though thyroid disorders are very common, thyroid cancer is extremely rare. Unlike hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer typically has few warning signs. It is important for you to listen to your body and look out for any signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer:

  • A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away
  • Trouble swallowing or trouble breathing
  • A constant cough that is not due to a cold

If you feel like something is wrong with your thyroid gland, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help determine the cause of your symptoms so you get proper treatment.

Related blog:

Tired all the time? Your thyroid gland could be out of whack

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