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What are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hyperthyroidism is the presence and production of too much of either or both of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T-4) and thyroxine (T-3) in the body. It is caused by several illnesses. A main cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s Disease, a condition that frequently is diagnosed by evaluating thyroid hormones. Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes bouts of muscle weakness may also result in hyperthyroidism. Another cause of hyperthyroidism is Toxic nodular goiter, which enlarges the thyroid gland, resulting in increased production.

Some early symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include weight loss, significant increase in appetite, and difficulty regulating mood with fluctuations between irritability and depression. As well those affected with hyperthyroidism may feel hyperactive. They may also experience profuse perspiration, feel fatigued or weak, and have arrhythmias.

Occasionally, hyperthyroidism will reduce sexual drive. It is also indicated in persistent vomiting or nausea. Also, those affected may experience significant muscle pains.

Those affected by hyperthyroidism may pass a high volume of urine, called polyuria, which means frequent bathroom trips. People might also feel a pounding heartbeat and/or shortness of breath, mimicking a panic attack. Hyperthyroidism is indicated in alopecia, otherwise known as hair loss on the scalp.

Severe complications of hyperthyroidism may include life-threatening arrhythmias, and stroke. Chorea, which is the involuntary movement of the extremities might be present. Those who have been affected by hyperthyroidism for a long period of time can suffer from intense tremors and shakiness throughout the body. Occasionally, hyperthyroidism is diagnosed by a patient’s unexplained paralysis.

Hyperthyroidism has several notable ocular effects. When people are awake, their eyelids can be opened wider than normal, causing a staring or frightened look to the eyes. They also may suffer lid-lag, which does not allow a person to track the downward movement of objects.

Not all symptoms appear in all people affected with hyperthyroidism. The symptoms can often appear to suggest other diseases. However, diagnosis is generally simple, involving a blood test to count T-3 and T-4, and to evaluate thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

In many cases treatment is destruction of the thyroid gland through radiation. This treatment is extremely effective, though it may not end all symptoms of causal autoimmune disorders. Those with goiter, and Grave’s disease are likely to see a significant reduction in symptoms or their complete disappearance. Ironically, perhaps, destruction of the thyroid gland often means a person will become hypothyroid, and may need to take T-3 and T-4 supplements after the procedure.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By jmc88 — On Aug 22, 2011

@Emilski - I'm not sure about whether preventative treatments are available, but I know that there are at least some indicators of thyroid problems.

I had an unrelated problem one time where I had to get a CT scan on my chest. While they were doing that, the technicians happened to notice something that looked odd around my thyroid.

I ended up having to go back and have a sonogram done on my throat to get a better look at my thyroid. Luckily, whatever they initially saw turned out to be nothing, but there are at least some early indicators that there could be a problem. That being said, I'm not sure if what they noticed could have lead to Grave's disease, or if there are other common thyroid problems.

By Emilski — On Aug 22, 2011

It looks like there are a wide range of hyperthyroid symptoms that would indicate someone is having problems. Is there any way to predict a problem before it arrives? Someone could notice the toxic nodule goiter, but if someone had Grave's disease, would there be some sort of noticeable change to the thyroid gland before symptoms showed up?

If you could notice and diagnose the problem before it got too bad, is there any treatment for hyperthyroidism that could be done ahead of time? Finally, instead of removing the thyroid completely, is there any hyperthyroidism treatment with medicines?

By cardsfan27 — On Aug 21, 2011

@matthewc23 - I was wondering a lot of the same things. The WiseGEEK article on the thyroid would be a good place to start. Basically, the thyroid is responsible for regulating our metabolism and hormones. That is why people who have thyroid problems are often either very tall, short, or overweight.

Toxic nodular goiters form after a normal goiter is present. It is almost exclusive to elderly people, though. I couldn't really find any information about the exact cause.

After reading the article, I was also wondering what happens to the rest of the body if you completely remove the thyroid. From what I have read, it is one of the most important glands in the body. Obviously, by looking at the problems caused by a malfunctioning thyroid gland, you can tell it controls a lot of things.

By matthewc23 — On Aug 20, 2011

What is the main purpose of the thyroid gland? I know it is located in the neck. I think it may even be what causes the Adam's apple.

I know that goiters are usually linked to a lack of iodine in our diets. That is why they started adding it to salt. Is the toxic nodular goiter mentioned in the article the same type of goiter, or is it a more severe type?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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