Overactive Thyroid: Symptoms, Causes And Treatments Explained

Everything You Need To Know About Having An Overactive Thyroid

Thyroid disorders affect one in twenty people in the UK.

Despite them being common, there are still many who are unaware of what actually causes them and, most importantly, what the symptoms are.

To tackle this, we've pulled together a whole host of useful information surrounding a specific type of thyroid disorder called overactive thyroid (or hyperthyroidism).

According to Bupa, hyperthyroidism affects roughly one in 100 people in the UK. It’s also about six times more common in women than men.

It occurs when too much thyroid hormone is present in the body.

This can happen as a result of Graves' disease, which is where the body's immune system targets the thyroid gland, causing it to produce more thyroid hormone than the body needs; or Nodular thyroid disease - where lumps (or nodules) develop in the thyroid gland and produce more hormones.

Certain medicines can also trigger the condition - particularly medication or supplements containing iodine.

It has also been noted that thyroid problems can be hereditary. As a result, the British Thyroid Foundation recommends getting tested for the condition if a family member is diagnosed with the condition.


“Having an overactive thyroid gland can speed up your metabolism, which can cause your body to react in various ways," says Dr Nitin Shori, medical director of the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service and a working NHS GP.

"Symptoms vary from person to person, but you might for example notice unexplained weight loss, shaking, feeling hot, hyperactivity and anxiety. In some cases, the thyroid gland – which is located in the neck – may swell and cause a noticeable lump.

“Patients often start to notice symptoms in their 20s and 30s, although for some, these can start much earlier."

He adds that symptoms usually ease with treatment.


How To Spot The Signs: Overactive Thyroid


The purpose of overactive thyroid treatment is to return your thyroid hormone levels back to normal.

According to Bupa, in some cases antithyroid medicines are prescribed such as carbimazole or propylthiouracil. Usually, these are taken for 12-18 months but can sometimes lead to an underactive thyroid.

Regular blood tests are essential to ensure this doesn't happen.

Beta-blockers may also be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of overactive thyroid until hormone levels return to normal.

According to the British Thyroid Foundation, other treatment options include surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland (called a thyroidectomy), as well as taking radioactive iodine which can destroy some of the thyroid tissue.

The latter treatment type involves taking iodine as a tablet or drink, which is then "taken up" by your thyroid gland.

As the radioactivity builds up, it destroys some of your thyroid tissue. This means the gland produces less thyroid hormones.