Increased thyroid gland function
Increased thyroid gland function
Increased thyroid gland function, hyperthyroidism, is a condition where the gland produces an increased amount of hormones. Hyperthyroidism is a fairly common disease, which affect about 1% of population at one part of their lives It occurs due to a range of various diseases, both cancerous and non-cancerous with smaller or greater impact.
A thyroid gland is an organ located on the front of the neck and is a part of the endocrine system, which is examined and treated by an endocrinologist. Endocrine organs are composed of glands, which produce hormones, which allow individual organs to communicate with other. To simplify, hormones tell various parts of the human body what to do. The thyroid gland produces triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which adjust fat burning, oxygen management and increase the production of proteins. It also produces calcitonin, which maintains a constant level of calcium by removing it from blood and storing it in bones, which prevents osteoporosis for instance. This, however, only applies for healthy levels of calcitonin.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism has characteristic symptoms, which are related to the functions of hormones. If the production of triiodothyronine and thyroxine, hormones which are responsible for the acceleration of metabolic processes is increased, these processes will occur even faster. Fat is burned quicker, which can cause weight loss (5%), more proteins are produced and body temperature increases. Typical symptoms include weight loss, increased sweating, becoming quickly tired, restlessness, unease, diarrhea, disturbed menstrual cycle in women. Increased thyroid gland function also causes increased heartbeat and heart arrhythmia can occur. The amount of symptoms and complications of this disease are naturally based on its duration and the influence of increases levels of hormones (T3, T4) on the body.
Development of hyperthyroidism
The causes of hyperthyroidism are either primary, meaning the thyroid gland itself is afflicted by disease, and secondary, where the hypophysis, which controls the release of thyroid hormones is affected.
Primary causes of hyperthyroidism are far more common than the secondary ones and their main representative is the Graves-Basedow disease. This is an autoimmune disease, which is marked by the production of antibodies against the cells of the body itself. The immune system is literally fighting against its own organs. These antibodies disrupt the production of T3 and T4, which leads to their increased release into the bloodstream. This disease mainly affects women between 30-60 years. Aside from increased metabolism, we can also observe a goiter, the prominence of the thyroid gland in the front part of the neck as well as protruding eyes, exophtalmos. The second most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an adenoma, which is a benign tumor. Other causes are less common, they are mainly thyroid inflammations, which can manifest as a hyperthyroidism.
Secondary causes of hyperthyroidism are fairly common and are essentially an issue with hypophysis. The hypophysis is an organ located in the brain, which governs the productions of thyroid hormones. Should there be an issue with the control center, usually due to a tumor, this organ will start producing more hormones, which directly increase the activity of the thyroid gland.
Diagnostics of hyperthyroidism
If there is a suspicion of hyperthyroidism, a blood test is performed, which will show the increased levels of hormones. It is necessary to discover the cause of the disease. Graves-Basedow disease shows up in blood. Thyroid adenoma is best discovered using ultrasound, which will specify the tumor's location, the size of the thyroid gland and will allow us to judge surrounding structures, especially lymph nodes, which tend to be swollen during cancerous diseases. Ultrasound examination is entirely painless examination, which displays structures under the skin via sound waves which penetrate the tissues.
Treatment of hyperthyroidism
The treatment of hyperthyroidism is based on the cause of the disease, which is often different both in origin and in treatment. The most basic drugs used are thyrostatics, which decrease the production of thyroid hormones. Thyrostatics are used to begin the treatment and normalize the patient's state. The treatment's results are monitored and the dosage adjusted. The disadvantage of thyrostatics are the common side effects causing reddened face and itchy skin. Other possibility is a radiooidine therapy, which is base on the ability of the thyroid gland to stockpile iodine, which is necessary for the production of hormones and its correct function. If the gland stockpiles radioactive iodine, however, it will break apart. This treatment is mainly employed with patients where a surgical treatment is too risky. Surgical treatment, thyroidectomy, is the most common permanent solution of hyperthyroidism. In the case of Graves-Basedow disease, the entire gland is removed. In the case of an adenoma, only the affected lobe is removed – a partial thyroidectomy.
The prognosis of treatment of hyperthyroiodism is favorable if the diagnosis is correct. The source of the disease plays a great role here, however. Graves-Basedow disease returns often and repeatedly, until the normal state is achieved, which is why surgical treatment is used. Untreated hyperthyroidism is a life threatening disease, especially in high-risk patients.