Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
There are numerous signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroid patients may have none, some, or many of these signs and symptoms, depending upon the severity of their disease. Patients may also have many of these signs and symptoms and not be hyperthyroid. Therefore, hyperthyroidism cannot be diagnosed by signs and symptoms alone. The diagnosis can only be confirmed after a thorough medical history, physical examination, and the appropriate laboratory tests.
Some Common Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
- hair loss
- shortness of breath
- heart murmur
- smooth skin
- generalized itching
- muscle weakness
- feeling hot
- increased perspiration
- moist, wet, red palms
- difficulty sleeping
- fast, strong, or irregular heartbeat
- poor memory
- inability to concentrate
- sudden mood swings
- "racing heart"
- delusions of grandeur
- increased number of bowel movements
- weight loss, in spite of increased appetite
- swollen fingertips
- swollen lymph glands
- retracted eyelids
- menstrual problems
- decreased or increased sexual interest
- fingernails separating from nail beds
Hyperthyroid patients most commonly voice complaints of fatigue, nervousness, irritability, increased sweating, feeling hot all the time (heat intolerance), insomnia, racing heart, hair loss, and poor memory. Many times patients do not realize that they have a poor memory or an inability to concentrate, or that they have become very difficult to live with. Some patients experience a change in libido (interest in sex); it is usually decreased but, in unusual cases, a patient's appetite for sex may increase tremendously.
Another common symptom in hyperthyroid patients is weight loss in spite of an increased appetite. Overweight patients who lose weight effortlessly from hyperthyroidism are often overjoyed. However, the weight lost is primarily from muscle as opposed to fat, and is frequently accompanied by muscle weakness. Muscle weakness from hyperthyroidism is characterized by an inability to climb stairs or to get up from a deep couch. Other patients may experience difficulty in holding their arms up while brushing their hair or teeth.
When hair loss (alopecia) occurs, patients may also become very frustrated. Stress, hypothyroidism, and, in women, too much male hormone may also cause hair loss. Hair loss due to hyperthyroidism is temporary; the hair will grow back within three to six months after the patients have been successfully treated. Hyperthyroid patients who develop either shortness of breath from muscle weakness or palpitations (a racing and pounding heart) may think that they have developed a heart condition. In hyperthyroid patients with otherwise healthy hearts, palpitations and shortness of breath neither signify the presence of heart disease nor pose a danger to the heart.
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism in older patients may be somewhat different than those in younger patients. For example, apathy may be the only symptom of hyperthyroidism in patients over sixty years of age. This situation occurs often enough that it has been given its own name, apathetic hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism may be associated with retraction of the upper eyelids, giving patients the appearance of staring. Excess thyroid hormone in the bloo
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