Hyperthyroidism/Thyrotoxicosis/Grave’s Disease

Too much thyroid hormone will make a person very active with a fast heartbeat, sweating and a tremor and cause these and other symptoms of conditions known as hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid or thyrotoxicosis. Grave’s disease is a type of overactive thyroid disease described as “autoimmune” meaning that the body’s immune system has damaged the thyroid gland.

“Body” Symptoms of Overactive Thyroid Disease

1. Overactivity, jitteriness. Your body may feel uneasy with a kind of “internal tremor”.
2. Rapid heartbeat, palpitations.
3. Shortness of breath, pre-existing asthma may worsen.
4. Weight loss despite eating the same or more than usual. Increased appetite.
5. Swelling at the front of the neck.
6. Heat intolerance, increased sweating, dressing lightly even in cold weather.
7. Itchy skin, skin may get darker or be patchy in colour. Patchy lumpy skin on the shins.
8. Fine soft hair, maybe prematurely grey, thinning or refusing to take a perm.
9. Gritty feeling in the eyes, staring or protruding eyes.
10. Shakiness/tremor – your cup and saucer may rattle.
11. Weak muscles, especially thighs and shoulders, frozen shoulder.
12. Sweaty hands, rings may become tight, “loose” catchy nails.
13. Reduced fertility, miscarriage, menstruation may be light or stop.
14. Diarrhoea and or vomiting.
15. Shoes may become tight. Untidy writing.

“Mind” Symptoms of Overactive Thyroid Disease

1. Nervousness, a mix of anxiety and irritability or the feeling that you have PMT all the time.
2. Bursting into tears.
3. Difficulties in relaxing and sleeping.
4. Exhaustion due to so much activity and little sleep.
5. Reduced ability to deal well with stress or shock.
6. Thoughts rushing through the head, particularly at night.
7. Particularly in the elderly a feeling of apathy may occur instead of anxiety.
8. Feelings of panic or panic attacks in which the heartbeat feels fast and seems loud.
9. Paranoia.
10. What others may view as neurotic behaviour.
11. Hallucinations particularly after prolonged insomnia.

If a person with an overactive thyroid is not given a thyroid test, they may be misdiagnosed as experiencing anxiety, neurosis, psychosis or other psychiatric disorder.

Blood Tests and Treatments for Overactive Thyroid Disease – Low TSH Raised T4

In thyrotoxicosis the levels of thyroxine (T4) and T3 are high and the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels are very low. In the UK doctors usually consider someone to be hyperthyroid if their TSH is under 0. 3 milliunits/1.

There are a variety of treatments for overactive thyroid disease including antithyroid drugs, beta-blockers, radioiodine and surgery. There are many things to be considered with each treatment and a GP or endocrinologist is the best person to give full information and advice on the wide choice so that the most appropriate measures may be taken.

Some treatments may eventually lead to underactive thyroid disorder, thus requiring thyroxine.

A doctor may consider it necessary to continue prescribing psychiatric medication along with treatment for your thyroid problem. On no account should anyone stop either psychiatric medication or treatment for a thyroid problem without consulting their doctor.