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Understanding Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism (or overactive thyroid) occurs when the thyroid gland produces an excess amount of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism in the body. This can result in a variety of symptoms, which may include weight loss, increased appetite, anxiety, rapid or irregular heartbeat, heat sensitivity, enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), and more.
At LifeMD, you can work with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner to receive the proper diagnosis and get on the right treatment plan.

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1. Schedule

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2. Chat

Meet with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner from your mobile device.

3. Pick It Up

Get a prescription if needed (save up to 90%), and pick it up at your pharmacy.

Medications Prescribed for Hyperthyroidism

Methimazole (Tapazole)

An antithyroid drug that works by reducing the production of thyroid hormones in the thyroid gland. Antithyroid drugs can help normalize thyroid hormone levels and control symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

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Propranolol (Inderal)

Part of a medication class called beta blockers. While it doesn’t affect thyroid hormone levels, it can lessen symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as a tremor and heart palpitations. Is sometimes prescribed to ease symptoms until thyroid hormones are closer to a standard level.

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Radioactive Iodine Therapy

A treatment that destroys the cells in the thyroid gland. This reduces the amount of thyroid hormone made by the thyroid gland, therefore reducing the size of the gland.

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Common Questions About Hyperthyroidism

What causes hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is typically caused by an overactive thyroid gland, which produces an excessive amount of thyroid hormones. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Graves' disease, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland and stimulates it to produce more thyroid hormones. Other causes of hyperthyroidism may include thyroid nodules, which are abnormal growths in the thyroid gland that autonomously produce excess thyroid hormones, or inflammation of the thyroid gland known as thyroiditis.

Rarely, hyperthyroidism can also be caused by certain medications or tumors in the thyroid gland. Genetic factors, stress, and environmental factors may also play a role in the development of hyperthyroidism, but the exact cause can vary from person to person.

Can hyperthyroidism be cured?

Hyperthyroidism can often be effectively managed and treated. The treatment approach depends on the underlying cause of hyperthyroidism, the severity of the condition, and the person’s overall health. Treatment options may include medications to reduce the production of thyroid hormones, radioactive iodine therapy to destroy part or all of the thyroid gland, or surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. These treatments aim to normalize the levels of thyroid hormones in the body and alleviate symptoms.

With appropriate treatment, hyperthyroidism can often be controlled, and individuals can lead healthy lives. Regular monitoring and follow-up with a healthcare provider are important to ensure that the treatment is effective and to make any necessary adjustments as needed.

Does hyperthyroidism make you gain weight?

In general, hyperthyroidism is associated with weight loss rather than weight gain. This is because an overactive thyroid gland leads to an increase in the body's metabolic rate, causing an accelerated breakdown of stored fat and muscle tissue, and increased calorie consumption.

Those with hyperthyroidism may experience unintentional weight loss despite having a normal or increased appetite. However, it's important to note that each person's response to hyperthyroidism may vary, and some people with hyperthyroidism may not experience significant weight loss or may even gain weight due to other factors such as increased appetite or changes in eating habits. It's important to consult with a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and management of hyperthyroidism and its associated symptoms, including changes in weight.

Can hyperthyroidism cause headaches?

Yes, hyperthyroidism can potentially cause headaches. The increased production of thyroid hormones with hyperthyroidism can affect various body functions, including the dilation and constriction of blood vessels. These hormonal changes can disrupt normal blood flow to the brain, leading to headaches as a common symptom.

Additionally, other symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as increased heart rate, anxiety, and irritability, can also contribute to headaches. Proper management and treatment of hyperthyroidism, along with addressing the associated symptoms — including headaches — are important for overall health and well-being.

Can hyperthyroidism cause high blood pressure?

Yes, hyperthyroidism can potentially cause high blood pressure. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body's metabolism, including heart rate and blood pressure. In hyperthyroidism, there is an excess production of thyroid hormones, leading to an increased heart rate and potentially elevated blood pressure. This can result in hypertension, or high blood pressure, as the increased heart rate forces the heart to work harder to pump blood, leading to higher pressure in the arteries.

Proper management and treatment of hyperthyroidism are essential to address any associated high blood pressure and reduce the risk of related complications.

Does hyperthyroidism cause hair loss?

Yes, the excess production of thyroid hormones in hyperthyroidism can disrupt the normal growth cycle of hair follicles, leading to hair thinning or loss. Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in regulating the growth and health of hair follicles, and an imbalance due to hyperthyroidism can result in hair shedding or reduced hair growth. Other factors associated with hyperthyroidism, such as increased stress on the body, nutritional deficiencies, and hormonal imbalances, can also contribute to hair loss.

Proper diagnosis, management, and treatment of hyperthyroidism, along with addressing any underlying factors, are important to manage hair loss associated with this condition.

Is hyperthyroidism dangerous?

If left untreated or poorly managed, hyperthyroidism can pose health risks. The excess production of thyroid hormones can lead to symptoms like rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, weight loss, irritability, anxiety, and fatigue. Over time, it can have detrimental effects on organs, such as the heart, bones, and eyes, and may result in complications like heart rhythm abnormalities, osteoporosis, and vision problems. In severe cases, a rare but life-threatening condition called thyroid storm can occur, causing severe symptoms like high fever, agitation, confusion, and organ failure, requiring immediate medical attention.

However, with proper diagnosis, management, and treatment, hyperthyroidism can be effectively controlled — and most people with hyperthyroidism can lead healthy lives. Treatment options may include medications, radioactive iodine therapy, or surgery, depending on the underlying cause and severity of hyperthyroidism. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare professional to monitor and manage hyperthyroidism so you can reduce the risk of complications.

Is hyperthyroidism genetic?

Yes, there is evidence to suggest that a family history of hyperthyroidism may increase the risk of developing the condition. Certain gene mutations or variations can predispose individuals to develop hyperthyroidism. However, it’s not solely determined by genetics, and other factors, such as environmental triggers and immune system dysfunction, can also play a role in the development of hyperthyroidism.

What is subclinical hyperthyroidism?

Subclinical hyperthyroidism is a condition characterized by low or normal levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood, but with normal levels of the thyroid hormones, free thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). It’s considered a milder form of hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid gland produces excessive thyroid hormones, but the levels don’t exceed the normal reference range.

Subclinical hyperthyroidism may not present with obvious symptoms, and is often detected incidentally during routine blood tests. It may be caused by various factors, including medications, underlying thyroid conditions, or a state of adaptation by the body. Treatment options for subclinical hyperthyroidism depend on the underlying cause, the severity of symptoms, and individual patient factors. Regular monitoring and management by a healthcare professional are important to prevent potential complications.

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