There are various health problems that are manifest as signs of an overactive thyroid. The thyroid gland affects metabolism in the human body. A large goiter on the neck is the most obvious sign that there is a problem with the thyroid.
Doctors are not able to easily diagnose an overactive thyroid just by symptoms alone. This is because an overactive thyroid can manifest itself as a variety of signs and symptoms. Patients with a mild case of hyperthyroidism often have no obvious symptoms.
Possible symptoms of overactive thyroid:
- Sudden weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Change in Menstral patterns
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sensitivity to heat
- Brittle hair
- More frequent bowel movements
A thyroid problem that persists untreated over a long period of time can result in a myxedema coma. This type of coma rarely occurs, but requires immediate medical attention.
It can be even harder for doctors to diagnose hyperthyroidism in elderly patients, as you can see why in the mentioned symptoms above. If a person notices sudden and unexplained weight loss, one should see a physician, as this is a common sign of an overactive thyroid.
What is the Medical Term for an Overactive Thyroid?
The medical term for an overactive thyroid is called Hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed when the body registers high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the bloodstream. Nodules in the thyroid are actually responsible for producing this excessive TSH.
If a person tests positive for hyperthyroidism, then further tests are conducted by a physician to check for thyroid cancer. This is done by taking a tissue sample of a nodule from your thyroid gland.
Identifying the Cause of Hyperthyroidism
Doctors can identify the cause of hyperthyroidism with radioactive iodide uptake tests. This test tracks how much iodide is absorbed by the thyroid gland. This iodide uptake test will essentially tell the doctor how much hormone the gland is producing at any given time.
Before performing this test, the patient is asked to swallow a small quantity of radioactive iodide (liquid or capsule) and the doctor has an instrument placed over the neck to measure the background radioactivity and how much radioactive iodide that has been collected in the patient’s thyroid.
If the thyroid collects too much radioactive iodide, then performs the radioactive iodide uptake test to locate the exact location of the iodide (captured on film). The doctor can then identify which nodules are responsible for excess hormone production.
The different types of hyperthyroidism:
- Toxic adenomas – the body’s chemical balance upset by thyroid hormones
- Pituitary gland malfunction – a rare form of hyperthyroidism
- Cancer growths in the thyroid gland – occurs in less than 10% of thyroid nodules
- Sub-acute thyroiditis – inflammation of the thyroid, leaking out excess hormones
- Graves’ disease – too much thyroid hormone being produced
Radiation Treatment Linked to Thyroid Cancer
According to WebMD, individuals that receive radiation treatment to the head or neck early on in life have a high risk of developing thyroid cancer.