What is Hyperthyroidism?

What is hyperthyroidism? The thyroid is a gland that is located in the neck, nearby the voice box. It is responsible for three different hormones that control the body’s metabolic rate, sex drive, circadian rhythm (biological responses over the course of a 24-hour day), and many other vital functions. If the thyroid gland is damaged, it can secrete too may hormones at once and create an imbalance. This is called hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism And Hormones

The thyroid gland produces three kinds of hormones. Two types in particular are especially affected by an overactive thyroid gland:

  • Triiodothyronine (T3) – This hormone plays helps regulate bone density and brain health, among other important roles. It also controls the process which converts oxygen into energy. As such, nearly all of our major organs need this type of hormone to survive.
  • Tetraiodothyronine (also known as thyroxine and T4) – This type of hormone is more common than T3, but it is much less powerful. The T3 hormone metabolizes with an important enzyme to create T4. Both T3 and T4 are tasked with the same responsibilities within the body.

What Kinds of Disorders are caused by Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is known to cause the following complications:

  • Graves’ disease – This occurs more often in women than men. It is when the immune system overstimulates the thyroid, which then produces too much T3 and T4.
    • Losing weight
    • Increased bowel activity
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Erratic mood changes such as irritability
    • Insomnia
  • Toxic adenomas – Caused when a nodule (lumpy mass) forms on the thyroid gland itself. The thyroid gland enlarges and releases too many hormones into the system.
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Decrease in bone density and mass
  • Subacute thyroiditis – This is a rare condition that is believed to be virulent (transmitted by a virus). The thyroid swells (perhaps in response to the immune system) and produces too much T3 and T4.
    • Symptoms may resemble Graves’ disease and toxic adenomas.

Hyperthyroidism and Hair Loss

A 2008 study found a direct link between “excess levels of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4)” and “altered hair/skin structure and formation”. That is to say, a hormonal imbalance can contribute to the loss of hair anywhere on the body. The study even compares the similar style of hair loss to effluvium, though it does not specify whether the loss more closely represents anagen effluvium (hair fractures at the shaft) or telogen effluvium (the bulb keratinizes and sheds in abundance).

The study goes on to link T3 and T4 levels to deformations in the hair follicle cycle as well as the overall pigmentation.

How do I know if I Have Hyperthyroidism?

Your doctor will be able to diagnose a thyroid disorder after performing a blood test that measures the levels of T3 and T4 in your body. Your doctor may also test the blood for autoimmune antibodies to see if your immune system is in a heightened state of response. The blood test may look for a third hormone that the pituitary gland secretes that may overstimulate the thyroid gland. A medical scan may be able to detect any abnormal growths on or around the thyroid gland as well.

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