What Is The Thyroid
The thyroid is a small gland below the skin and muscles at the front of the neck, at the spot where a bow tie would rest.
It’s brownish red, with left and right halves that look like a butterfly’s wings. It weighs less than an ounce, but helps the body do many things, such as get energy from food, grow, and go through sexual development.
What Is The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroids job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.
A Safe Return To Exercise
In my mind, the best starting point to return to exercise is the introduction of gentle aerobic activity, in conjunction with some easy muscle strengthening exercises.
Think yoga, tai chi, and weight training with lighter loads.
Over time, you would aim to meet the recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, and a minimum of two muscle-strengthening activities per week but first you need to ease into it.
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Treatment And Medication For Hyperthyroidism
An overactive thyroid gland is more difficult to control than an underactive one. With the latter, treatment usually involves taking hormones to make up for the missing amounts. But it can be more challenging to stop the thyroid gland from making too much hormone, as seen in hyperthyroidism.
Your overall treatment plan may depend on your age and the severity of your condition. The following treatments are effective for hyperthyroidism.
What Are The Serious Complications Of Hyperthyroidism
People with advanced and severe hyperthyroidism face a ramshackle of problems, some of them life-threatening. The good news is many patients do not reach this level of severity.
Complications can include:
- Graves ophthalmopathy, also known as thyroid eye disease . A new drug, teprotumumab , was approved by the FDA in 2020 to treat thyroid eye disease.
- Irregular heartbeat, which can lead to stroke, heart failure, blood clots, and other heart problems
- Thyroid storm
- Pregnancy complications, including high blood pressure during pregnancy, miscarriage, low birth weight, and premature birth
- Bone loss and osteoporosis
The longer you have an overactive thyroid and go without treatment, the greater the risk of lifelong complications, even after treatment. As over 60% of people with thyroid disease go undiagnosed, its important to listen to your body before reversible symptoms like weight loss and insomnia progress to serious or life-threatening issues.
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Too Much Thyroid Hormone Medicine
Some people who take thyroid hormone medicine for hypothyroidism may take too much. If you take thyroid hormone medicine, see your doctor at least once a year to have your thyroid hormone levels checked. You may need to adjust your dose if your doctor finds your thyroid hormone level is too high.
Some other medicines may also interact with thyroid hormone medicine and raise hormone levels. If you take thyroid hormone medicine, ask your doctor about interactions when starting new medicines.
Favorite Integrative Sources For Hyperthyroidism
As with many other chronic health conditions, hyperthyroidism cant be cured with alternative remedies alone. Still, some complementary treatments may help alleviate your symptoms. If youre curious about complementary hyperthyroid treatments, read up on what the American Thyroid Association has to say, and talk to your endocrinologist for more information.
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Treatments For An Overactive Thyroid
An overactive thyroid is usually treatable.
The main treatments are:
- medicine that stops your thyroid producing too much of the thyroid hormones
- radioiodine treatment where a type of radiotherapy is used to destroy cells in the thyroid, reducing its ability to produce thyroid hormones
- surgery to remove some or all of your thyroid, so that it no longer produces thyroid hormones
Each of these treatments has benefits and drawbacks. You’ll usually see a specialist in hormonal conditions to discuss which treatment is best for you.
Can Hyperthyroidism Be Prevented Or Avoided
You cannot prevent hyperthyroidism. However, some people are more at risk for the condition. This includes people who:
- Were born female.
- Have a family history of thyroid disease.
- Are younger than 40 or older than 60.
- Have certain problems, such as type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia, or an immune system disorder.
- Consume large amounts of iodine, either through food or medicine
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Types Of Thyroid Problems
Hopefully, you’re beginning to get the idea that there are MANY things that can go wrong with your thyroid gland.
The good news is that some of the problems associated with your thyroid have no effect on thyroid hormone production.
What does that mean?
It means that even if you have a condition such as thyroid cancer or a thyroid nodule, there’s a low chance that it will interfere with thyroid function in your body.
That means you probably won’t have the symptoms we discussed above.
But, on the other hand, there are some conditions which primarily do alter your ability to produce thyroid hormone.
These conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, WILL cause symptoms.
To give you a better idea of what can go wrong with your thyroid I’ve included some of the most common problems below:
- Autoimmune disease where your own body attacks your thyroid gland – Somewhat common with up to 5% of patients suffering from this condition
- Inflammation of the thyroid gland from infection, trauma or immune attack
- Cancer of the thyroid gland – Thyroid cancer is the most common cancer of the endocrine system but has a 5-year survival rate of around 97%
Figuring out what is wrong with your thyroid is of utmost priority.
When you go to your Doctors office make sure you walk out with a diagnosis or at least an idea as to what is going on.
If you don’t then you may end up frustrated without any real clear idea how to treat your issue.
What Are The Complications Of Hyperthyroidism
Untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause serious health problems, including
- an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related problems
- an eye disease called Graves ophthalmopathy
- thinning bones, osteoporosis, and muscle problems
- menstrual cycle and fertility issues
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Favorite Clinical Trial Outreach
Are you looking for a way to participate in clinical research groups for your condition? With your endocrinologists consent, you may be able to participate in selected studies in your area while gaining potential treatment. Bookmark the above link from the Endocrine Web to stay updated on all active clinical trials pertaining to hyperthyroidism.
When To See Your Gp
See your GP if you have symptoms of an overactive thyroid.
They will ask about your symptoms. They can also arrange a blood test if they think you might have a thyroid problem. This is to check the hormone levels to see how well your thyroid is working.
If the blood test shows that you have an overactive thyroid, you may be referred for further tests to identify the cause.
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Treatment For An Underactive Thyroid
The treatment for an underactive thyroid is more straightforward. In almost every case, the appropriate treatment is supplementation of thyroid hormones with a medication called levothyroxine.
Levothyroxine does not fix the problem with the thyroid. It simply replaces the thyroid hormone the body would make if it could, but cannot, whatever the cause of hypothyroidism.
Some people will need levothyroxine for a short time, but most patients will need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Graves’ Disease
Kids and teens with Graves’ disease might notice that:
- they’re more tired than usual
- they have lots of trouble sleeping
- they lose weight
- their heart is beating very fast
- their hands shake
- they have a lot of trouble focusing
Girls with Graves’ disease sometimes notice that they have fewer menstrual cycles. Over time, many people notice that their thyroid glands are enlarged.
Some people with Graves’ disease have troubles with their eyes itching, burning, redness, and sometimes trouble seeing normally. Sometimes they feel pressure behind the eyes, feel their eyes bulging, or see double. This is because the antibodies that make the thyroid overactive also cause and swelling behind the eyes. When this happens, it’s called Graves’ eye disease.
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Exercising With Untreated Hyperthyroidism: What You Need To Know
Now, with all this in mind, you might find yourself wondering Can I exercise with an overactive thyroid?, or even does exercise make hyperthyroidism worse?
Simply, the answer is yes you can exercise however, there are some caveats around this .
First and foremost, hyperthyroidism is already associated with an increased heart rate at rest, as well as during exercise. If you are exercising with untreated hyperthyroidism, then this excess stress on the heart may have the potential to cause cardiovascular dysfunction, which is obviously not all that good.
Secondly, with hyperthyroidism, your metabolism is already elevated.
I have already explained how this means that your energy expenditure will always be through the roof. This alone can lead to weight loss, some declines in muscle mass, and reductions in bone mineral density.
As a result, exercising in an untreated state may exacerbate these issues by increasing your energy expenditure even further. Ultimately, this all means that you need to be very selective with the exercises that you choose to perform.
Now, with all this in mind, there is some recent evidence to suggest that resistance training may actually offer a very useful option.
This research has shown that if people with hyperthyroidism perform weight training for as little as two times per week, they will see increases in muscle mass, normalization in their metabolism, and even increases bone mineral density .
How Do Doctors Treat Hyperthyroidism
Your doctor will treat your hyperthyroidism to bring your thyroid hormone levels back to normal. Treating the disease will prevent long-term health problems, and it will relieve uncomfortable symptoms. No single treatment works for everyone.
Your treatment depends on whats causing your hyperthyroidism and how severe it is. When recommending a treatment, your doctor will consider
- your age
- When part of the thyroid is removed, your thyroid hormone levels may return to normal.
When part of your thyroid is removed, you may develop hypothyroidism after surgery and need to take thyroid hormone medicine. If your whole thyroid is removed, you will need to take thyroid hormone medicine for life. After surgery, your doctor will continue to check your thyroid hormone levels.
Researchers are looking into new ways to treat hyperthyroidism. An example is radiofrequency ablation , a new approach to treating thyroid nodules that cause hyperthyroidism.5,6 RFA is used mainly in cases where medicines or surgery wont help, and is not yet widely available.
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Symptoms Of An Overactive Thyroid
The thyroid produces hormones that affect things such as:
The hormones can also affect your heart rate and body temperature.
An overactive thyroid can cause a wide range of possible symptoms. It’s unlikely you’ll experience all of them.
The symptoms may develop gradually or suddenly. For some people they’re quite mild. For others, they can be severe and significantly affect their life.
What Causes Hyperthyroidism
Medical conditions and situations that can cause hyperthyroidism include:
- Graves disease: In this disorder, your immune system attacks your thyroid. This makes your thyroid create too much thyroid hormone. Graves disease is a hereditary condition . If a member of your family has Graves disease, theres a chance others in the family could have it, too. Its more common in people assigned female at birth than people assigned male at birth. Graves disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, making up about 85% of cases.
- Thyroid nodules: A thyroid nodule is a lump or growth of cells in your thyroid gland. They can produce more hormones than your body needs. Thyroid nodules are rarely cancerous.
- Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis is inflammation of your thyroid gland, which may be painful or painless . It may happen within a year of delivering a baby . After you experience thyroiditis, your thyroid may be unable to recover, which would lead to hypothyroidism.
- Consuming excess iodine: If youre at risk for hyperthyroidism and consume too much iodine , it can cause your thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone. Iodine is a mineral that your thyroid uses to create thyroid hormone. Receiving intravenous iodinated contrast may also cause hyperthyroidism. Amiodarone, a medication that contains a high amount of iodine, may also cause hyperthyroidism.
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Treatments For Eye Problems
If you have thyroid eye disease but your symptoms arenât severe, you can usually manage them by avoiding bright lights and wind, raising the head of your bed, and using eye drops. Your doctor may suggest a selenium supplement. In some cases, your doctor might prescribe a medication called teprotumumab-trbw . Itâs FDA-approved to treat the symptoms of thyroid eye disease. They might also suggest steroids or other medications to help control the swelling behind your eyes.
For some people, especially those with severe thyroid eye disease, surgery is the best option. There are two kinds that can help severe symptoms:
- Orbital decompression surgery involves removing the bone between your sinuses and eye socket. It can make more room for your eyes so that they go back to their normal position. It can help improve your vision. There are risks to the surgery, including double vision.
- Eye muscle surgery is sometimes used to correct double vision. It works by cutting muscles in your eyeball that are covered in scar tissue. Thyroid eye disease can cause this. The cut muscles are then reattached in a different position, which can put your eyes back in proper alignment. You may need this surgery more than once to get the right results.
Role Of Diet In Treating Thyroid Dysfunction
I do not routinely recommend dietary changes in patients with overactive or underactive thyroid. Occasionally, patients with an overactive thyroid should avoid foods high in iodine such as seafood.
Similarly, there are some patients with underactive thyroids who may benefit from iodine supplementation. But in most developed countries, low iodine levels are not a significant factor in hypothyroidism.
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How Does Eating Diet And Nutrition Affect Hyperthyroidism
Your thyroid uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. If you have Graves disease or another autoimmune thyroid disorder, you may be sensitive to harmful side effects from iodine. Eating foods that have large amounts of iodinesuch as kelp, dulse, or other kinds of seaweedmay cause or worsen hyperthyroidism. Taking iodine supplements can have the same effect. Talk with members of your health care team about
- what foods to limit or avoid
- any iodine supplements you take
- any cough syrups or multivitamins you take because they may contain iodine
Can Hyperthyroidism Be Cured
Yes, there is a permanent treatment for hyperthyroidism. Removing your thyroid through surgery or destroying your thyroid through medication will cure hyperthyroidism. However, once your thyroid is removed or destroyed, youll need to take thyroid hormone replacement medications for the rest of your life. Your body still needs thyroid hormones, just not at such high levels as you have in hyperthyroidism. Though you’ll need to take the medication and check in with your healthcare provider regularly, this is a manageable form of thyroid disease.
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What Are The Causes Of Hyperthyroid
Hyperthyroidism is quite unique as it can be caused by a number of different factors, with the most common being Graves disease.
Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes certain antibodies made in your body to stimulate the thyroid gland. This stimulation causes the gland to secrete too much thyroid hormone, which results in the onset of hyperthyroidism.
Some other common causes of hyperthyroidism are:
- Too much iodine is taken in through diet, which is a key compound used in the production of both thyroid hormones.
- Inflammation of the thyroid gland, which causes the thyroid hormones to literally leak out of the gland.
- The development of a tumor on the ovaries or testes can cause the increased secretion of thyroid stimulating hormone, which will act to elevate thyroid hormone secretion.
- The development of a benign tumor on the thyroid gland can also accelerate thyroid hormone production.
As the causes of the disease can be so varied, it is imperative that you seek advice from a medical professional to optimize an appropriate treatment plan.
Favorite Hyperthyroidism Online Support Networks
While weve found numerous blogs related to thyroid health, Drugs.com is one of the few places that offers online networking specifically for people with hyperthyroidism. Here you can post questions and provide helpful insights to other hyperthyroid patients who need advice. While youre there, you can read up on some of the latest hyperthyroidism-related news from Drugs.com.
This resource aims to educate people about Graves disease. Topics you can read up on include general treatments, anti-thyroid drug experiences, symptom relief, complications, and more.
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How Is Graves’ Disease Diagnosed
Graves’ disease is diagnosed based on a visit with a doctor who will review the symptoms and examine the patient.
It’s important to do lab tests too, because many people can have some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism for other reasons. Sometimes the blood tests aren’t enough to be sure of the diagnosis and other tests are needed, like a thyroid scan or ultrasound.