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Hyperthyroidism, known as overactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces more hormones than usual. The thyroid is a small gland found beneath your Adam's apple and controls how your cells use energy.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, followed by Plummer's disease. Hyperthyroidism is much more common in women, which means symptoms in men can sometimes get overlooked. Additionally, this condition is more likely to affect people over 60 years old.
As in women, men can suffer equally detrimental effects on their health.
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in both men and women. Other causes include:
Thyroiditis is thyroid inflammation, which can sometimes cause thyroid hormones to leak into the bloodstream excessively.
Iodine is a key nutrient that the thyroid uses to make its hormones. You will produce fewer of these hormones with a low-iodine diet.
In some cases, people medicated for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can be overmedicated, raising their hormone levels excessively. This can be prevented by having regular appointments with a doctor to check your hormone levels.
This is relatively rare but can cause hyperthyroidism.
These are lumps in your thyroid that produce excess hormones. The condition can include Plummer's disease.
Hyperthyroidism affects many organs in the body, which means it can cause many different symptoms. Some common symptoms include:
Increase in appetite
Increase in sweat production
Frequent bowel movements
Swelling of or on the thyroid gland (goiter)
Changes in fingernails and/or toenails
Males sometimes display specific symptoms, including:
Mild depressive symptoms
Sexual dysfunction can include:
Change in libido
An overall decrease in satisfaction
In men with hyperthyroidism, sexual dysfunction has been shown to affect 48–77% of patients. Thyroid hormones also affect the testes, meaning that an impact on sperm quality and quantity can be observed.¹
Hyperthyroidism is very similar in men and women, but men can experience additional symptoms, most related to sexual health. It’s important to express your concerns to a medical professional if you suspect you have hyperthyroidism. Symptoms in men can sometimes be ignored since it is less common.
It is not entirely known why hyperthyroidism is less common in men. However, one hypothesis is that hyperthyroidism is associated with autoimmune disorders, which are more common in women. Pregnancy and menopause have also been shown to affect thyroid function.²
To diagnose hyperthyroidism, your doctor will perform a physical exam and other tests. They may also ask about your family history, as it can increase the likelihood of the disease’s development. The tests may involve scans or blood tests.
They are necessary because hyperthyroidism shares many of its symptoms with other conditions. The physical exam may include checking your heart rate or inspecting your thyroid gland for any signs of growth or swelling.
Speak to your medical professional if you suspect you may have this disease. The symptoms listed in this article may be key signs that you are experiencing hyperthyroidism. It’s always best to get tested as soon as you suspect something, as leaving this disease to develop could lead to possible complications, such as:
Osteoporosis or a decrease in bone density
Heart problems, e.g., irregular heartbeat, rapid heart rate, heart failure
Treatment of hyperthyroidism aims to lower your thyroid hormone until they reach healthy levels. The type of treatment you need will depend on the disease severity and what has caused your hyperthyroidism.
In some cases, if the symptoms are few and manageable, the disease can be controlled by simply avoiding iodine. However, you should consult your doctor before deciding against medical therapy.
Several treatment options are available, including medication, radioiodine therapy, and thyroid surgery.
Medication can come in the form of beta-blockers or antithyroid drugs. Beta-blockers can reduce the symptoms of hyperthyroidism but do not prevent the thyroid from making hormones.
Antithyroid medications stop the thyroid from making as many hormones to reduce the symptoms. These medications can sometimes cause side effects; your doctor will discuss these with you before prescribing anything.
This treatment involves taking iodine-131 in capsule or liquid form. The iodine is absorbed by only the thyroid gland. It destroys the overactive cells that are producing too much thyroid hormone.
Radioiodine therapy is an effective treatment. Nevertheless, most people under this treatment develop hypothyroidism later. This condition is the opposite of hyperthyroidism, occurring when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.
Hypothyroidism is much easier to treat. You may be recommended to only take a daily medication that raises your hormone levels, and that’s it.
Thyroid surgery can remove part or all of the thyroid. This is often used if a large goiter has formed on the thyroid.
The risk of this procedure is that sometimes general anesthesia can cause a sudden upsurge in all symptoms, which is called a thyroid storm. Your doctor may prescribe antithyroid medication before surgery to prevent this from happening.
Another side effect of thyroid surgery is that it can also cause hypothyroidism, especially if the entire thyroid is removed. This would require you to take daily hormone supplements as your doctor prescribes.
There are many misconceptions about thyroid disease; some of these include the following:
This is not true. Anyone can develop this disease despite it being more common in women.
Not all people with hyperthyroidism develop a goiter.
Of the many symptoms caused by hyperthyroidism, bulging eyes is usually only caused by Graves’ disease. Not everyone with hypothyroidism is affected by this.
Goiters (growths on the thyroid) are much more common, affecting around 5% of the U.S. population, but only 1–2% of people will get thyroid cancer at some stage of life. Therefore, it is much more likely that the lump on your thyroid is benign or non-cancerous.³ ⁴
Hyperthyroidism is significantly lower in men compared to women. However, this does not mean that men are never affected by it. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in men can often be overlooked because it is less common, causing the disease to progress into further health issues.
It can also cause sexual health problems that are not present in women, potentially affecting relationships, self-esteem, and fertility. You must seek advice from a medical professional if you suspect the symptoms may relate to hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid problems in men can include hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism and be caused by multiple ailments. Thyroid problems are less common in men but can still affect your health.
Consult your medical professional for the best approach to treat your thyroid problems. There are several treatment options, including surgery, medication, or supplements, to help you return to normal. The right approach will depend on the cause.
Thyroid problems are generally indicated by many symptoms that can often get mistaken for other diseases. Men, in particular, often experience sexual dysfunction due to thyroid disease. This could include erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction, or decreased sexual satisfaction. Other symptoms to look out for have been listed in this article's “symptoms” section.
Thyroid disease in women (1998)
Goiter | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Hyperthyroidism (Overactive thyroid) | Penn Medicine
Hyperthyroidism (Overactive thyroid) | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)