Hyperthyroidism is a medical condition affecting 1% of Americans above the age of 12. While it can occur in anyone, certain demographics are more susceptible to developing this condition, also known as an overactive thyroid. Knowing the risk factors for hyperthyroidism can increase awareness about this disease and its preventive measures.
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Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid glands make more thyroid hormones than your body requires. The amount of thyroid hormones the body needs at a given time varies. It is the work of the pituitary gland to regulate thyroid production by signaling the thyroid gland to release more or less of this hormone into the bloodstream.
Thyroid hormones act on entire nuclear cells and are vital for normal growth and metabolism. Excessive release of thyroid hormone results in an overactive thyroid, also referred to as hyperthyroidism.
People with hyperthyroidism are likely to experience heightened metabolism, heartbeat, and digestion as too much of the thyroid hormone speeds up bodily functions.
Excess thyroid hormones increase body metabolism, thus heightening bodily functions.
People with hyperthyroidism tend to have excessive energy resulting from increased metabolism. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism vary but generally may include:
Signs of goiter or neck enlargement
Rapid and irregular rate of heartbeat
Nervousness, fatigue, irritability
Frequent bowel movements
Older adults diagnosed with overactive thyroid tend to show different symptoms than younger adults, like loss of appetite.
There is still the possibility of developing hyperthyroidism without any risk factors, but the more risk factors you have, the higher the likelihood of developing the condition.
Below are the risk factors for hyperthyroidism:
These are the medical conditions that may increase your chances of developing hyperthyroidism:
Pregnancy- some women may develop postpartum thyroiditis.
A history of other autoimmune disorders like type 1 diabetes.
An overactive thyroid can occur at any age; however, it is more common in individuals aged 60 and above.¹
A strong family history of Grave's disease or other forms of overactive thyroid has higher chances of developing the disease.
Women are at a higher risk of developing hyperthyroidism than men.
Those who consume a diet rich in iodine are at higher risk of having an overactive thyroid.
You have higher chances of getting the disorder if:
You are a woman or over 60.
You have a family history of thyroid illness.
You have other forms of autoimmune diseases like vitiligo. Conditions like autoimmune gastritis also increase the chances of getting hyperthyroidism. Type I and 2 diabetes and primary adrenal insufficiency also increase the likelihood of contracting an overactive thyroid.
You use nicotine products.
You were pregnant within the past five months.
You consume food or take medicine rich in iodine.
Other illnesses that significantly affect how the thyroid gland works can also cause hyperthyroidism.
An overactive thyroid has several causes, such as:
Nodules: overactive nodules within the thyroid can produce too much thyroid hormone, leading to hyperthyroidism.
Graves’ disorder: an autoimmune condition that forces the immune system to attack the thyroid gland, causing it to produce an excess of thyroid hormone.
Too much iodine: Iodine is essential in the manufacture of thyroid hormones. However, consuming too much iodine may cause the thyroid to produce more hormones than the body needs.
Thyroiditis: This inflammatory condition forces the thyroid to release stored hormones in the body. It can occur for a few weeks or even months, leading to hyperthyroidism.
Eye complications: bulging, swollen eyes, double vision, or sensitivity to light. If untreated, it can result in severe eye complications and, in turn, loss of sight.
Red, swollen skin: individuals with hyperthyroidism can experience skin issues like redness and swelling.
Heart problems: hyperthyroidism results in rapid heart rate and heart rhythm disease known as atrial fibrillation, which can increase the risk of stroke and congestive heart failure, where the heart cannot adequately circulate blood to meet the body's requirements.
Thyrotoxic crisis: overactive thyroid increases your risk of thyrotoxic crisis, a sudden escalation of your symptoms resulting in a fever, delirium, and rapid pulse.
The thyroid gland can produce either an excess of thyroid hormone, a condition known as hyperthyroidism, or too little thyroid hormone, called hypothyroidism.
Generally, you can’t prevent hyperthyroidism. However, creating awareness about risk factors and symptoms is vital in the early diagnosis of this condition.
Regular medical follow-ups can help prevent severe complications due to an overactive thyroid.
An overactive thyroid is a severe disease that can result in serious complications. It is worth seeking medication attention if you notice symptoms like:
Feelings of irritability/anxiousness
Frequent bowel movement
Neck enlargement (goiter)
Hyperthyroidism symptoms could be related to other diseases; thus, it is essential that you vividly describe your symptoms to ensure you receive the required attention. The doctor may recommend treatments like medication, surgery, or dietary changes.
Hyperthyroidism mainly develops from pathology within the thyroid gland. Although there are no preventive measures for an overactive thyroid, knowing the risk factors can help you understand the chances of developing the disease.
While you can develop hyperthyroidism without any of the risk factors, these factors predispose you to the disease.
For instance, women are more likely to develop the disease than men, and those over 60 years are more susceptible to the condition. You are also more likely to have the disease if you regularly consume a diet or medication rich in iodine.
Certain conditions such as thyroiditis, Graves’ disorder, and overactive nodules make you prone to developing the disease.
It is very important to contact a healthcare professional if you notice symptoms such as sweating, muscle fatigue, goiter-like neck enlargement, and rapid, irregular heartbeat.
Hyperthyroidism (Overactive thyroid) | (NIDDK) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases