Hyperthyroidism

  • Medical Author:
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

View Hyperthyroidism Slideshow

Quick GuideHyperthyroidism Pictures Slideshow: Keep Your Thyroid in Check

Hyperthyroidism Pictures Slideshow: Keep Your Thyroid in Check

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

Hyperthyroidism can be suspected in patients with:

There may be puffiness around the eyes and a characteristic stare due to the elevation of the upper eyelids. Advanced symptoms are easily detected, but early symptoms, especially in the elderly, may be quite inconspicuous. In all cases, a blood test is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

The blood levels of thyroid hormones can be measured directly and usually are elevated with hyperthyroidism. However, the main tool for detection of hyperthyroidism is measurement of the blood TSH level. As mentioned earlier, TSH is secreted by the pituitary gland. If an excess amount of thyroid hormone is present, TSH is "down-regulated" and the level of TSH falls in an attempt to reduce production of thyroid hormone. Thus, the measurement of TSH should result in low or undetectable levels in cases of hyperthyroidism. However, there is one exception. If the excessive amount of thyroid hormone is due to a TSH-secreting pituitary tumor, then the levels of TSH will be abnormally high. This uncommon disease is known as "secondary hyperthyroidism."

Although the blood tests mentioned previously can confirm the presence of excessive thyroid hormone, they do not point to a specific cause. If there is obvious involvement of the eyes, a diagnosis of Graves' disease is almost certain. A combination of antibody screening (for Graves' disease) and a thyroid scan using radioactively-labelled iodine (which concentrates in the thyroid gland) can help diagnose the underlying thyroid disease. These investigations are chosen on a case-by-case basis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015

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