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The Thyroid Gland

Hyperthyroidism is an imbalance of the metabolism due to overproduction of thyroid hormones. The thyroid, which is located in the neck, produces several hormones that control the way the body uses energy. This is called metabolism. Hyperthyroidism speeds up the metabolism. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. There are several types, including Graves' disease, toxic multinodular goiter, toxic uninodular goiter and a few other rare forms like TSH-secreting pituitary tumors, iodine-induced and functioning trophoblastic tumors.


Symptoms may include weight loss, increased appetite, nervousness, restlessness, fatigue, heat intolerance, increased level of perspiration, anxiety, frequent bowel movements, swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter) and menstrual irregularities in women. Secondary symptoms that may be noticed include weakness, difficulty sleeping, clammy skin or a flushing of the skin, bounding pulse, nausea and vomiting, lack of menstruation, overall itching, rapid heart-rate, breathing difficulties, hand tremors, hair loss or thinning hair, diarrhea, high blood pressure, protruding eyes and breast development in men. Occasionally a patient may have raised, thickened skin over the shins, the back of the feet, the back, the hands or the face.


Graves' disease, which is the most common form of hyperthyroidism, is thought to be caused by an antibodies stimulating the thyroid which keeps it producing hormones. Toxic nodular goiters are caused by a non-cancerous tumor in the nodules of the thyroid. Secondary hyperthyroidism is caused when the pituitary gland overrides the thyroid's normal functioning, causing it to produce too much hormone.


When the condition is severe, it may be accompanied by fever, a very rapid pulse, agitation and possible delirium. If left untreated, an overactive thyroid can cause serious problems. If you have these symptoms, see a medical or naturopathic physician.

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