—by Cate Stevenson, BA
When you are healthy, your thyroid makes just the right amounts of two particular hormones called “T4” and “T3.” T4 and T3 have important jobs to perform throughout your body. These hormones help to regulate your metabolism, eventually affecting how many calories you burn, how warm you feel, and how much you weigh. In short, your thyroid is the engine that runs your metabolism.
T3 and T4 also play a big part in the functioning of your heart, which beats faster and harder under the influence of these hormones. Basically, when it comes to an increase in thyroid hormones, all the cells in your body will respond with a corresponding increase in the rate at which they conduct their business.
Hyperthyroidism is the medical term used to describe the symptoms that go with an over-production of thyroid hormone. Symptoms can include the following:
–Fast heart rate
–Warm, moist skin
The problem with hyperthyroidism is that usually the symptoms are so gradual in their onset that patients don’t realize they have them until they become more severe. This means the symptoms may continue for months before patients fully realize that they are sick. And, in older people, some or all of the typical symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be absent, and the patient may just lose weight or become depressed.
In order to address this difficulty, a team of researchers performed a study to determine the prevalence of symptoms and signs of hyperthyroidism according to patient age and sex and the severity and type of hyperthyroidism. The research team looked at 3,049 consecutive patients with hyperthyroidism, from whom data were collected from 1984 through September 2006. A questionnaire was used for all patients throughout the study.
The researchers found that older patients with hyperthyroidism have fewer symptoms as compared with younger patients. They recommend that physicians should consider performing thyroid- function tests in patients 60 years of age or older, especially those with atrial fibrillation, weight loss, and/or difficulty breathing.
If you have any of these symptoms but have been baffled as to their cause, consider getting your thyroid function tested. Treating hyperthyroidism usually involves taking synthetic hormones to regulate your thyroid. Once the thyroid is operating within a normal range, symptoms will lessen and, in most cases, disappear altogether.