Overactive thyroid is medically known as hyperthyroidism. In simple words, it means you have too much thyroid hormone in your body. Consequently, you may have signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism. As these symptoms indicate toxic effects of too much thyroid hormone, this condition is also called thyrotoxicosis.
Hyperthyroidism is a common endocrine disorder, especially in women.
Symptoms of Overactive Thyroid
Common symptoms due to hyperthyroidism include:
- Weight loss despite a good appetite
- Feeling hot all the time when other people feel comfortable.
- Thinning of hair
- Osteoporosis (weakening of bones)
Symptoms of Overactive Thyroid in Women
In addition to above symptoms, hyperthyroidism can also lead to irregular menses in women. Sometimes, there may be a complete cessation of menses. In addition, hyperthyroidism may lead to a depressed mood and blunted sexuality. According to one study, women with hyperthyroidism were more likely to have depression, low sex desire, arousal, and sexual satisfaction than women without hyperthyroidism.1
Post-menopausal women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis if they develop overactive thyroid.
During pregnancy, hyperthyroidism poses special challenges to the mother as well as the baby. Therefore, seek out an experienced endocrinologist if you are pregnant and have hyperthyroidism.
Delay In the Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism
As there are many symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland, a patient usually consults their family physician. At first, your family doctor may or may not order the proper thyroid tests, which causes a delay in the diagnosis.
Personally, I have seen many hyperthyroid patients who were initially referred to cardiologists for their palpitations, oncologists for their weight loss and psychiatrists for their anxiety. For this reason, learn about your health issues and seek out a proper referral. Obviously, an endocrinologist is your best option if you have symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
What Causes Overactive Thyroid?
Here is a list of various causes of hyperthyroidism in descending order:
- Too large of a dose of thyroid hormone. It may be prescribed by a physician. Alternatively, a patient may decide to take too much thyroid hormone on their own.
- Graves’ Disease
- Toxic Multinodular Goiter
- Subacute Thyroiditis
- Post-partum (post-delivery) Thyroiditis
- Painless Thyroiditis
- Drugs such as amiodarone, interferone.
- COVID infection as well as COVID vaccines
- Ovarian Tumor (a rare cause)
- Molar pregnancy (a rare cause)
- Early Pregnancy
- TSH producing pituitary tumor (extremely rare).
How To Diagnose Hyperthyroidism
An experienced endocrinologist can diagnose hyperthyroidism based on your signs and symptoms. Afterwards, he will order special diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. Additionally, there are some thyroid tests which can help to pinpoint the reason for your overactive thyroid gland.
Thyroid Tests for Hyperthyroidism
Blood tests for Free T3 and Free T4 are reliable tests to confirm the clinical diagnosis of overactive thyroid. However, there is another blood test, TSH, that non-endocrinologists rely on heavily. Unfortunately, TSH may be a misleading test in many situations.
Special Thyroid Tests to Pinpoint the Cause of Hyperthyroidism
As there are so many causes of hyperthyroidism, an endocrinologist will carefully choose further thyroid tests. In this way, he can accurately diagnose the cause of your overactive thyroid gland. These special thyroid tests include:
- TRAB (Thyrotropin Receptor Antibody test)
- TSI (Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulins)
- TPO antibody test (Thyroid Peroxidase antibody)
- TG antibody test (Thyroglobulin antibody test)
- Radioiodine Uptake and Scan
There are multiple causes, symptoms, and tests for overactive thyroid gland. For this reason, an experienced endocrinologist is your best choice for accurate diagnosis of hyperthyroidism.
For more details, please refer to my book,”Graves’ Disease And Hyperthyroidism“