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Thyroid facts

Hyperthyroidism (overactive), Graves' Disease &
Thyroid Eye Disease

Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid, occurs if the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, which causes every function in the body to speed up. If your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, Hyperthyroidism/Overactive Thyroid is usually caused by Graves’ Disease, which is an auto-immune thyroid disorder.

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ Disease is a thyroid autoimmune disease. Early diagnosis and treatment of Graves’ Disease is essential, as it can have adverse effects on heart function, bone structure and the eyes.

Patients who have been diagnosed with Graves’ Disease are referred to an endocrinologist who specialises in thyroid disorders for treatment and ongoing management of their condition.

Thyroid Eye Disease (TED)

Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) is an autoimmune disease and is usually connected to Graves’ Disease. Patients who have been diagnosed with Graves’ Disease should be aware of the association and monitor their vision and eye health closely.

Early diagnosis of TED is essential to ensure the patient receives treatment and ongoing monitoring. Inflammation of the eye muscles and fatty tissue behind the eye can cause the eye/s to protrude and bulge forward. The eye can develop a stare, where the patient’s eyes are fixed on an object or view. The eyelids can become red and swollen and the eyes can water.

Thyroid Eye Disease is treated by an endocrinologist together with an ophthalmologist who specialises in Graves’ Disease and TED. TED is an individual disorder and therefore treatments are determined depending on the condition of the patient.

Graves’ Disease Treatment

In the first instance, treatment for Graves’ Disease is an anti-thyroid medication, either Neo-mercazole (Original) Carbimazole (Generic) or Propylthiouracil (PTU) (Original). Approximately 50% of patients treated for one year achieving remission.

Definitive treatment is usually recommended if the patient does not go into remission or if there is a recurrence after an initial remission. Definitive therapy is carried out by way of a total thyroidectomy – (removal of the thyroid gland) therefore removing Graves’ Disease or radioactive iodine treatment.

Levothyroxine (thyroid hormone replacement) is usually prescribed following treatment by an endocrinologist and the patient is monitored regularly to ensure the dose is adequate.

Patients need to ensure they consult an endocrine surgeon who specialises in thyroid surgery to discuss surgery and a nuclear medicine specialist to discuss radioactive iodine treatment to discuss treatment options. The patient should be well informed before a decision is made on which treatment is best for them.

Other Causes of Hyperthyroidism:

Toxic Nodular Goitre (a single nodule or multi nodules) which produce thyroid hormone, independently to the thyroid gland.

Inflammatory conditions of the thyroid called thyroiditis.

Taking excessive quantities of thyroid hormone preparations can also cause hyperthyroidism.

If you suffer from Hyperthyroidism, your symptoms could include:

  • Weight Loss/Increased Appetite
  • Loose Bowel Motions/Diarrhoea
  • Increased Sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Hand Tremor
  • Tiredness/Weak Muscles, particularly around the upper arms and thighs
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Menstrual Changes/Fertility Problems
  • Restlessness/Nervousness/Anxiety
  • Emotional/Irritability
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Protruding or Staring Eyes – (Thyroid Eye Disease Connected to Graves’ Disease)



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The mission of The Australian Thyroid Foundation Ltd (ATF) is to offer support, information and education to members and their families through the many services provided by The ATF and raise awareness about health consequences of iodine deficiency and the benefits of good thyroid health.

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