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Hyperthyroidism is a result of the thyroid gland producing too much hormone. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease. This is a problem where the immune system within the body overstimulates the thyroid. A nodule in your thyroid gland can also cause hyperthyroidism if the cells in the nodule produce more hormone than the rest of the gland. Nodules are lumps of tissue felt in the thyroid gland and although they may seem alarming, they are usually a normal occurrence and don’t always cause thyroid problems. While most nodules are benign (noncancerous) it is important to note that nodules can be cancerous on occasion (10-15% malignancy in solid nodules). Your doctor may suggest regular exams and ultrasound tests to see if the nodules grow before seeking further treatment such as surgery or thyroid hormone pills.
There are three main treatments for hyperthyroidism: anti-thyroid medication (to reduce the amount of hormone made by the thyroid gland); radioiodine ablation (a pill or liquid dose of radioactive iodine that destroys overactive thyroid cells); and surgery (to remove part or all the of the thyroid gland).
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Shaking, nervousness, irritability
- Feeling hot
- A rapid, irregular heartbeat
- Muscle weakness, fatigue
- More frequent bowel movements
- Shorter, lighter menstrual periods
- Weight loss
- Hair loss