Medical IDs for Hyperthyroidism

Hormones are all about balance. They are the chemical messengers produced by endocrine glands. Hormones travel through the blood to various organs. They influence your growth, mood, sexual energy, metabolism and reproductive system.  Learn more about how

Sometimes, the glands that produce hormones get out of balance and start making too much or too little. When the thyroid gland produces too much hormone, a person can develop hyperthyroidism.

What is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in the neck. It’s shaped like a butterfly and produces two types of hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 and T3 play an essential role in many of your body’s functions.

When it travels through the body, T4 converts into T3. The converted T4 hormone and the T3 produced by the thyroid gland influence the metabolism.

Problems with the thyroid are relatively common. They can lead to either an underproduction or overproduction of hormones. When the gland produces too many hormones, a person develops hyperthyroidism.

What is Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism occurs when there is too much thyroid hormone in the body. Excessive hormone levels push the metabolism into overdrive. A person with hyperthyroidism might notice changes in their heart rate, breathing, mood and digestion.

What Causes Hyperthyroidism?

A variety of factors can cause hyperthyroidism. In some cases, the cause is an auto-immune disorder called Grave’s disease. When a person has Grave’s disease, their immune system goes after the thyroid, causing it to produce more hormones than it should. 

Grave’s disease affects about one out of every 200 people in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It’s the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.

Women are more likely than men to have Grave’s disease. Although it can develop at any time, it’s most common in people between 30 and 50 years old.

Growths or nodules on the thyroid are another cause of hyperthyroidism. The nodules are usually not cancerous but can stimulate the production of T4 and T3. Thyroiditis, or inflammation of the gland, can also increase the production of thyroid hormones.

External factors can also cause hyperthyroidism. Iodine is a mineral the body uses to produce thyroid hormones. When a person’s diet is very high in iodine, they can have too much hormone.

In some instances, medication for an underactive thyroid triggers an overproduction of the hormone.

All in all, hyperthyroidism is the least common of all thyroid problems. The Cleveland Clinic reports that it affects about 1% of people in the U.S.

What are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?

Since the entire body uses thyroid hormone, symptoms of hyperthyroidism can develop all over the body. Symptoms can vary from person to person with the condition, as well. Some of the more common symptoms of the condition include:

  • Weight loss
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased appetite
  • Reduced heat tolerance
  • Feelings of anxiety or nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping

If a person has Grave’s disease, there might be changes to the eyes, too. A common sign of the condition is eyes that bulge from the sockets. The eyes might feel dry or gritty, too.

The symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism can lead to other issues with the body if the hormone imbalance isn’t corrected. For example, a rapid heartbeat can put a person at an increased risk for stroke. Eye changes can increase the risk of vision loss.

How is Hyperthyroidism Treated?

Fortunately, hyperthyroidism is treatable. There are three treatment options available.

Option one is a medication that blocks the production of thyroid hormones. Usually, people take antithyroid medicines for several years.

Option two is radioactive iodine. When taken by mouth, radioactive iodine destroys thyroid cells while leaving other body cells alone. Once destroyed, the thyroid cells can’t produce hormones.

While radioactive iodine is very effective at treating hyperthyroidism, it does go a bit far. Since it destroys the cells that produce T4 and T3, people who decide on the treatment need to take synthetic thyroid medication for the rest of their lives.

The third option is surgery, which removes the thyroid gland. Like radioactive iodine, removal of the thyroid gland means that the body stops producing thyroid hormone. To compensate, a person who chooses surgery will need to take thyroid medication.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is underactive, meaning it doesn’t produce enough T4 or T3 hormones. Like hyperthyroidism, an underactive thyroid can be caused by an auto-immune disease (Hashimoto’s disease) or thyroid inflammation.

It can also develop if a person doesn’t get enough iodine in their diet or due to treatment for hyperthyroidism.

Signs of hypothyroidism are often the opposite of the signs of hyperthyroidism. Since the reduced thyroid hormone production slows down the metabolism, a person might experience:

  • Weight gain
  • Slower heart rate
  • Reduced cold tolerance
  • Fatigue

The treatment for hypothyroidism usually involves taking a synthetic form of the hormones. A person might need to take medicine for the rest of their life, but many find that it is enough to balance their hormone levels.

Diagnosing Thyroid Problems

If a physician suspects that a person has either an underactive or overactive thyroid, the best way to diagnose the issue is to test the gland. Thyroid tests measure the levels of T4 and T3 hormones. If an auto-immune disease is suspected, a physician can also order a thyroid antibody test. 

Taking images of the gland can help a doctor see any nodules or if inflammation is present.

Medical IDs for Hyperthyroidism

People with hyperthyroidism often need to avoid or limit their exposure to certain minerals, such as iodine. Some medications might also be off-limits when someone has an overactive thyroid.

If you have an overactive thyroid, wearing a medical alert bracelet or carrying a medical ID is a good idea. The bracelet or ID lets first responders know that you have hyperthyroidism. It can also tell them about your medications and anything you need to avoid, such as medications containing iodine. Your medical ID can also inform first responders of any other conditions, such as Grave’s disease that might be related to hyperthyroidism.