Isn't it a good thing that hyperthyroidism speeds up our body's metabolism and helps lose weight?

Due to the increased thyroxine in the body, the metabolic rate of patients with hyperthyroidism is too high, generally leading to long-term nervousness, palpitation, hand tremors, heat intolerance and excessive sweating, increased frequency of bowel movements, hyperactivity and irritability, as well as weight loss and difficulty falling asleep. Some may even develop the condition of bulging eyes. Hypermetabolism and weight lose are not beneficial to the body. In fact, hyperthyroidism is like an excessively operated machine that operates too fast and burdens the body. If remains untreated, the patient may develop shortness of breath, heart failure or arrhythmia. In severe cases, the heart may even stop beating. In the meantime, hyperthyroidism will also increase the loss of bone calcium and lead to osteoporosis.

While most cases of hyperthyroidism are caused by immune system disorders, Graves' disease, a common condition that causes thyroid hyperplasia and swelling, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Meanwhile, viral infections can result in the self-attack of the antibodies in the body, thereby leading to the proliferation of secretory tissues and the over-production of thyroxine.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

The initial symptoms of hypothyroidism are not obvious, and patients often experience fatigue, depression, constipation, cold intolerance, decreased heart rates, menstrual disorders, weight gain, slow response, swollen feet, etc. Due to insufficient thyroxine, the body will operate like a machine running out of power. Patients will become lethargic in their daily lives. However, patients may easily confuse these signs with other physical conditions such as menopause or emotional disorders due to the inconspicuous symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism in adults is mostly associated with autoimmune thyroiditis, and may also be related to treatments for hyperthyroidism such as surgery and radioactive iodine treatment.

How can I accurately identify hyper- or hypothyroidism?

Since thyroid diseases do not necessarily come with obvious symptoms and can be easily mixed up with other diseases, patients may find it difficult to identify the causes. In addition to the doctor's clinical diagnosis, a simple blood test can be performed to test the levels of thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in order to assess whether there are abnormalities in the thyroid function.

How to treat hyper- or hypothyroidism?

Both hyper- and hypothyroidism can be controlled by medication. Patients with hyperthyroidism take medicine to inhibit the secretion of thyroxine, during which the doctors may arrange additional blood tests with a view to adjusting drug dosages. If hyperthyroidism persists, the doctor may arrange a radioactive iodine treatment so as to kill part of the thyroid secretory tissues. If there are multiple recurrences of hyperthyroidism, the doctor may recommend the patient to undergo surgery in order to remove part of the thyroid gland. The treatment of hypothyroidism is relatively simple. Patients are only required to take medicine on a daily basis as thyroid supplements, during which the doctor helps the patients adjust the use of medication.

Last Updated: Jun 2019
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