Your thyroid is a small gland that sits at the front of your throat and carries out numerous important functions throughout the body. It works closely with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, both located in the brain, to regulate your body's hormones and control your metabolism.
Some people experience problems with their thyroid gland, such as hyperthyroidism (production of too much thyroid hormone), which can cause many unpleasant symptoms, one of which is nausea.
Learn more about hyperthyroidism, its symptoms, and more below.
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Hyperthyroidism is a condition characterized by an overactive thyroid gland that makes too much thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate many metabolic functions throughout the body, leading to symptoms that can have significant negative impacts on your daily life.
Approximately 1.3% of the U.S. population¹ has hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by inflammation of the thyroid, taking too much thyroid hormone to treat hypothyroidism (also referred to as factitious hyperthyroidism)², Graves disease, and more.
Because people with hyperthyroidism produce too much thyroid hormone, their metabolism often becomes quicker, which can lead to the following symptoms:
Rapid heart rate
More frequent bowel movements
These are just a few of the numerous symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is often more difficult to detect in the elderly, as they tend to show fewer symptoms. The symptoms in the elderly such as fatigue, weight loss, and agitation, are sometimes dismissed and deemed signs of aging.
Although nausea is a symptom of numerous conditions and illnesses, many people with hyperthyroidism also experience nausea, vomiting, and other digestive issues.
Hyperthyroidism can lead to thyrotoxicosis, characterized by too much thyroid hormone circulating in your body. Thyrotoxicosis can also be caused by taking too much thyroid hormone medication.
The symptoms of mild and moderate thyrotoxicosis are similar to the symptoms of hyperthyroid listed above. Severe thyrotoxicosis, however, can cause the following symptoms:
Having a high fever
Experiencing a very rapid heartbeat
If you have a thyroid condition or suspect you may have one and present with the symptoms described above, seek immediate medical attention.
Severe thyrotoxicosis, also called a thyroid storm, is rare, but it can be life-threatening. With proper treatment, any nausea caused by hyperthyroidism or a thyroid storm should resolve.
Hyperthyroidism is a relatively common condition in the United States, and anybody can develop it. Some risk factors can increase the chances that you will develop hyperthyroidism, including:
Having a family history of thyroid problems
Having other autoimmune disorders (Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis)
Being older than 60 years old
Being born a female
Eating a diet high in iodine
Having one or more of these risk factors doesn't guarantee that you will develop hyperthyroidism. Still, you should visit your doctor regularly for check-ups and keep a close eye on any related symptoms you may be experiencing.
If you have experienced the symptoms described above of hyperthyroidism, especially unintended weight loss, tremors, and rapid heartbeat, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing and your medical and family history. They will perform a physical examination, which often includes looking at and feeling your neck to see if your thyroid gland is enlarged. Your Doctor will then request blood tests to look at your blood thyroid hormone levels.
Thyroid hormone blood tests look at your T3, T4, and TSH levels. Hyperthyroidism is associated with high T3 and T4 and low TSH levels. If your blood tests show that you may have hyperthyroidism, your Doctor will request additional tests, including an ultrasound, a thyroid scan, or a radioactive iodine uptake test.
The good news is that hyperthyroidism is typically a highly treatable condition, and people with it can still live long and healthy lives with proper treatment.
If your doctor diagnoses you with hyperthyroidism, there are a few treatment options that can help you feel better within a few weeks.
The most common medication prescribed to those with hyperthyroidism is antithyroid medication, which reduces the amount of thyroid hormone your thyroid gland produces.
While antithyroid medications don't cure hyperthyroidism, they can drastically reduce the symptoms caused by the condition.
Another common medication for people with hyperthyroidism is beta-blockers. These medications help reduce some of the more disruptive hyperthyroidism symptoms, such as tremors, anxiety, and rapid heartbeat. They are often prescribed to help you feel better until your other treatments start to work.
Radioiodine therapy consists of you swallowing a small capsule containing radioactive iodine. Because the thyroid gland absorbs iodine, the radioactive iodine only impacts the thyroid gland. The radioactive iodine destroys some of the overactive thyroid gland cells, which can help to reduce the amount of thyroid hormone your thyroid gland releases.
If your thyroid gland doesn't respond to previous treatment options, or if you cannot tolerate the medications, your doctor may speak to you about a surgery called a thyroidectomy.
A thyroidectomy is a surgery that involves removing some or all of the thyroid gland. If your entire thyroid gland is removed, you will have to take thyroid hormone for the rest of your life. The surgery typically only takes a couple of hours, and you can usually go home on the same day.
Hyperthyroidism can make you feel unwell, especially when your thyroid hormone levels are too high. The good news is that hyperthyroidism is a relatively simple condition to diagnose, and the treatment options available tend to be highly effective.
Undiagnosed and untreated hyperthyroidism can cause you to feel worse and even lead to a condition called a ‘thyroid storm’.
If you suspect you might have hyperthyroidism, talk to your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing. If you are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, your doctor will work with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan that works for you.