Your thyroid is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of your neck, a gland that weighs less than an ounce but plays a critical role in your body. The thyroaid produces two important hormones, thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3) that maintain the rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates, helps control your body temperature, influences your heart rate and helps to regulate the production of protein as well as the amount of calcium in your blood.

A common disorder related to the thyroid is hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid in which your thyroid begins to produce too much thyroxine.

Once you understand what the thyroid does in your body, it is easier to understand the seemingly random symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism symptoms include:

  • Sudden weight loss with no accompanying loss of appetite. In fact the weight-loss is often accompanied by an increased appetite
  • A rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat.
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Thinning skin and fine brittle hair
  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness

Another hyperthyroidism symptom, less common than those listed above, is when the eyeballs are also affected by the disorder. This is called Graves' ophthalmopathy and occurs when the tissues and muscles behind the eyes swell, pushing the eyeball out of its orbit. This gives the impression of large bulgy eyes and is often accompanied by excessive tearing or sensitivity of the eyes as well as light sensitivity, blurry or double vision, inflammation, or reduced eye movement.

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies produced by your immune system stimulate your thyroid to produce too much T-4. The bulging eyeballs mentioned above are in particular a symptom of Graves’ disease. Other hyperthyroidism causes include toxic adenoma (an adenoma is part of the thyroid gland), Plummer's disease (toxic multinodular goiter) and thyroiditis.

Hyperthyroidism is more likely to affect women than man. It also runs in families, particularly Graves disease. So if a member of your family suffered from hyperthyroidism it is important to ensure you regularly have your thyroid function checked. Smoking and stress have also been linked to Graves disease, and therefore identified as a cause of hyperthyroidism.

Fortunately hyperthyroidism treatment is easily available. It is not an uncommon condition and can be easily treated. Your hypothyroidism treatment will depend on factors such as your age, physical condition and how severe the disorder is.

Surgery is a possibility for those who are pregnant or for some reason cannot take medications to treat their overactive thyroid. Otherwise anti-thyroid medications can be taken which reduce hyperthyroidism symptoms within a few weeks but need usually to be taken for a year or longer to fully treat the problem. A radioactive iodine can also be taken orally for a period of 3 to 6 months.

Many of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism could indicate a number of disorders, so if you believe you may be suffering from an overactive thyroid it is important to describe all your symptoms to your doctor. It is fortunately an easily manageable disorder as long as it is properly diagnosed. If you fear you are suffering many of the hyperthyroidism symptoms, or have a history of hyperthyroidism in your family, be sure to have your thyroid levels checked regularly.

Author's Bio: 

Ryno is the content co-ordinator for GetSavvi Health medical insurance. He regularly writes about health and lifestyle topics and manages GetSavvi Health’s social media pages. A Journalism graduate from the University of Pretoria, he worked as a hard news journalist before making his way to marketing. He loves his two beautiful Labradors, and when he is not walking them on the beach, he’s probably trying to follow his own health and lifestyle advice by trading in the take-aways for a healthy, home-cooked meal.