What can cause hyperthyroidism
The overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is characterized by the increased production of thyroid hormones. Hyperfunction is diagnosed when the normal hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is too low while one or both values for the thyroid hormones free T3 (triiodothyronine) and free T4 (levothyroxine) are increased. An incipient hyperfunction (also called latent hyperthyroidism) is present if only the TSH value is low, but the values for free T3 and free T4 are still in the normal range.
The physical signs of an overactive thyroid are:
- Increased sweating
- Weight loss
- Rapid pulse
- High blood pressure
- Shaking hands
- Muscle weakness
- Inner restlessness, insomnia, difficulty concentrating
- Frequent bowel movements, sometimes diarrhea
These common causes of overactive thyroid are:
- Thyroid autonomy ("hot knots")
- Graves disease
- Too high a dose of thyroid hormone treatment
These causes of hyperfunction are very rare:
- Congenital hyperfunction
- Initial phase of an inflammation of the thyroid gland released by "cell disintegration"
In Germany, an autonomic dysfunction (autonomy) of the thyroid gland is usually the cause of the overactive function, followed by Graves' disease in terms of frequency.
Autonomy is an overproduction of thyroid hormone, which is no longer subject to normal regulation by the pituitary gland as the control organ of hormone production (see also: "hot nodes", autonomous adenomas). Often there are individual nodes of the thyroid gland that cause this overproduction. These knots are also known as hot knots. Hot knots are almost always benign. Sometimes the thyroid as a whole also produces too much hormone. The technical term for this is "disseminated autonomy".
Graves 'disease (see also: Graves' disease) is a disease that affects the entire thyroid gland and is one of the autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are when there is a disorder in the body's immune system. Certain thyroid structures are no longer recognized by the body as its own and a defense reaction is activated. The body produces proteins (antibodies) that activate hormone production.
Excessive doses of thyroid hormones, used to treat hypothyroidism and to suppress the growth of thyroid nodules, or to treat thyroid cancer, can also cause the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Congenital over-functions of the thyroid gland, which are caused by changes in the genetic make-up that activate hormone production, are very rare.
Occasionally, autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid gland (Hashimoto's thyroiditis) or subacute thyroid inflammation (De Quervain) can lead to hyperfunction, usually lasting only a few weeks. This is caused by the release of thyroid hormone that has been pre-produced and stored in the thyroid gland. The disorder resolves spontaneously, but can turn into temporary or persistent hypofunction.
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