Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland makes excessive amounts of thyroxine, which is a vital hormone in the body. Hyperthyroidism generally acts by speeding up metabolism, leading to unintentional weight loss as well as an irregular or rapid heartbeat.

There are several treatments available for this condition, with doctors often using radioactive iodine and anti-thyroid medications to suppress the slow the production of thyroxine. Treatment may sometimes also involve surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland. While serious if ignored, hyperthyroidism is readily identifiable and is almost always diagnosed and treated at a low-income medical clinic before it becomes unmanageable.


Hyperthyroidism carries several of the same symptoms as other common health problems, which makes it difficult for a doctor to initially diagnose. The symptoms include the following.

  • Unintentional weight loss, whether or not you continue to eat the same amount of food you used to
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), where you have over 100 beats in a minute
  • Pounding of the heart (palpitations)
  • Nervousness, irritability, and anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Sweating
  • Trembling in the hands and fingers
  • Increased heat sensitivity
  • Irregular menstrual patterns
  • Enlarged thyroid gland, which may look like a swelling near the base of the neck
  • Irregular bowel patterns, particularly with more frequent movements
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Hair going fine and brittle
  • Skin thinning

Older adults usually exhibit the relatively subtle symptoms in this group, such as increased heat sensitivity, increased heart rate, and the tendency to get winded quickly.

Seeing a Doctor

If you start experiencing a rapid heartbeat, swelling on the neck, unexplained weight loss, unusual sweating, or other associated signs and symptoms, it is definitely time to see a doctor. Make sure to fully describe the changes, because these may be from other conditions accompanying hyperthyroidism. If you have ever received or are receiving treatment for hyperthyroidism, be regular in your visits, so as to allow your doctor to monitor the condition. If you have never sought medical help over something like this, start with a simple online search for “free clinics near me” and proceed from there.


The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland of small size, located at the base of the neck, and below the Adam’s apple. It has an enormous capacity to affect your health and holds total control of your metabolic functions. Thyroxine and triiodothyronine are the two main hormones it produces, and these affect every single cell in the body. They are responsible for maintaining the rate of fat and carbohydrate use, controlling body temperature, regulating heart rate, and influencing protein production. The thyroid is also vital to maintaining the right level of calcium in the blood.

Factors That Cause Excess Thyroxine

  • Graves’ disease: This autoimmune disorder involves antibodies put out by the immune system, overly stimulating the thyroid towards T4 (Thyroxine) production. Graves’ disease is the most prevalent cause of hyperthyroidism.
  • Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules: This particular form of hyperthyroidism sets in when an adenoma of the thyroid puts out too much T4. An adenoma can be defined as a component of the gland which has separated itself from the remainder, causing the formation of noncancerous lumps which could end up swelling the thyroid.
  • Thyroiditis: Sometimes the thyroid gland can swell after pregnancy, owing either to some autoimmune condition, or another reason. The inflammation from this can result in the excess thyroid filling up the gland leaking directly into the bloodstream. Some thyroiditis types may be painful, while others are not.


Hyperthyroidism can give rise to numerous complications, such as the following.

  • Heart problems: These make up the most serious complication posed by hyperthyroidism. A person with the latter can develop atrial fibrillation (disordered heart rhythm that raises the risk of stroke), rapid heart rate, and congestive heart failure (the heart being unable to circulate sufficient blood for the whole body).
  • Brittle bones: Hyperthyroidism, if left untreated, can cause your bones to go weak and brittle, such as in osteoporosis. The bones in the human body are strong only as long as the required amounts of calcium as well as other minerals are present in them. Too much thyroid gets in the way of maintaining that delicate balance by stopping your body from depositing calcium into your bones.
  • Eye problems: People who have a condition called Graves’ ophthalmopathy are seen to develop eye problems such as bulging, redness or swelling, double vision or blurring, and light sensitivity.
  • Swollen, red skin: A person with Graves’ disease may develop Graves’ dermopathy on rare occasion, which mainly affects their skin. The symptoms of this include swelling and redness, on the feet and the shins.
  • Thyrotoxic crisis: Hyperthyroidism brings the risk of thyrotoxic crisis, where your symptoms suddenly intensify, and this is followed by a rapid pulse, fever, and sometimes even delirium. If this happens, the only way forward is through medical care.
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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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