Hyperthyroidism

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What is hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which an overactive thyroid gland is producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormones that circulate in the blood. ("Hyper" means "over" in Greek). Thyrotoxicosis is a toxic condition that is caused by an excess of thyroid hormones from any cause. Thyrotoxicosis can be caused by an excessive intake of thyroid hormone or by overproduction of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland. Because both physicians and patients often use these words interchangeably, we will take some liberty by using the term "hyperthyroidism" throughout this article.

What are thyroid hormones?

Thyroid hormones stimulate the metabolism of cells. They are produced by the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in the lower part of the neck, below the Adam's apple. The gland wraps around the windpipe (trachea) and has a shape that is similar to a butterfly formed by two wings (lobes) and attached by a middle part (isthmus).

The thyroid gland removes iodine from the blood (which comes mostly from a diet of foods such as seafood, bread, and salt) and uses it to produce thyroid hormones. The two most important thyroid hormones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) representing 99.9% and 0.1% of thyroid hormones respectively. The hormone with the most biological activity (for example, the greatest effect on the body) is actually T3. Once released from the thyroid gland into the blood, a large amount of T4 is converted to T3 - the more active hormone that affects the metabolism of cells.

Thyroid Gland illustration - Hyperthyroidism


Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Hyperthyroidism - Symptoms Question: For hyperthyroidism, what were the symptoms and signs you experienced?
Hyperthyroidism - Treatments Question: What was your treatment for hyperthyroidism?
Thyroid storm is a medical emergency for a patient with hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism Doctor to Patient

Thyroid Storm: An Emergency of the Thyroid

Medical Author: Ruchi Mathur, MD
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

There are really not many emergencies that we need to worry about regarding the thyroid gland - but thyroid storm is one of the rare exceptions.

Thyroid storm is a crisis or life-threatening condition characterized by an exaggeration of the usual physiologic response seen in hyperthyroidism. Whereas hyperthyroidism can cause symptoms such as sweating, feeling hot, palpitationsand weight loss- symptoms of thyroid storm are more severe, resulting in complications such as:

  • fever
  • rapid heart rate
  • nausea/vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • irregular heart beat
  • weakness
  • heart failure
  • confusion/disorientation

STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!