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What is Hyperthyroidism? Print E-mail
Written by Jessica Smith   
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Hyperthyroidism is a disorder that is caused by elevated levels of thyroid hormone.

What is going on in the body?

The thyroid gland is a small endocrine gland located at the base of the neck. It produces thyroid hormone, which controls the processes which allow the body to transform food into energy and to rebuild cells. In a person with hyperthyroidism, the body produces too much thyroid hormone.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are several causes of hyperthyroidism. In some people, the immune system produces antibodies that activate and stimulate the thyroid gland. This causes the gland to produce excessive amounts of hormones. A common example of this is Graves' disease. Other forms of hyperthyroidism may be caused by thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland. Certain benign or malignant tumors can also produce too much thyroid hormone. Some forms of goiters can enlarge and produce excess thyroid hormone.

What are the treatments for the condition?
The main treatment of hyperthyroidism is to reduce the production of thyroid hormone. This can be done with drugs, such as:
# propylthiouracil
# methimazole
# potassium iodide

Medications called beta-blockers, such as atenolol or metoprolol, can also used to block the effects of thyroid on tissues.

Some people are treated by altering or destroying the thyroid gland using radioactive iodine. Radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland and destroys the excessive thyroid tissue. This treatment is commonly used in Graves' disease. It is not helpful in people with thyroiditis. Surgery is not usually done, except in the case of a tumor that secretes thyroid hormone.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
The side effects of treatment depend on the medications used. When radioactive iodine is used to destroy the thyroid gland, people will usually need thyroid hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives. Pregnant women should not receive radioactive iodine.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

After a person is treated for hyperthyroidism, the levels of thyroid hormone will continue to be checked. Medications are adjusted to maintain normal levels. Blood tests are used to confirm the level of thyroid hormone production.
How is the condition monitored?

The condition is monitored by regular physical exams and blood tests.


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