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Hyperthyroidism is characterized by increased thyroid hormone synthesis and secretion from the thyroid gland , whereas thyrotoxicosis refers to the clinical syndrome of excess circulating thyroid hormones irrespective of source

TSH low T4 high / normal T3 high / normal 
( unless on T4 treatment ). Direct physiological effect of the excess hormone & ↑↑ catecholamine activity. Thyrotoxicosis often used interchangeably with hyperthyroidism , it can be defined as

” excess thyroid hormone in the body, including exogenous intake of thyroid hormome preparations .Prevalence about 1 % to 2 % in women and 0.1 -0.2 % in men Happens in all ages 6 times more common in women

Subclinical hyperthyroidism- Low TSH but normal T4 and free T3 Possibly more prevalent than commonly believed- any symptoms of hyperthyroidism ? drugs ? Non-thyroidal illness ? -Repeat in 3-6 months time or earlier if
 elderly CV dis Non- thyroidal dis may have caused the initial abnormality.Persistent and unexplained – refer endocrinology

Two main causes of an overactive thyroid are
 Grave’s disease – peak incidence age 30 Toxic multinodular goitre. Primary hyperthyroidism- increased secretion of thyroid hormones causes a negative feedback resulting in ↓↓ TSH levels
 Secondary hyperthyroidism- abnormality is at the level of the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland. Grave’s disease – 75 to 80 % of cases
♦ autoimmune disease
♦ development of unique human autoantibodies to the thyroid stimulating hormone ( thyrotropin , TSH ) receptor
♦ this leads to unopposed stimulation of the thyroid gland causing ↑↑ ed synthesis and release of thyroid hormones and enlargement of the thyroid gland
♦ presents between 30-40 yrs
♦ ↑ ed risk with a 
 family h/o hyperthyroidism
 those with an autoimmune dis e.g type 1 diabetes
♦ Presentation can be with
 hyperthyroidism +
 autoimmune features ie Grave’s ophthalmopathy and pretibial myxedema
♦ the disease has a waxing and waning course

Toxic multinodular goiter- Second leading cause excess thyroid hormone is released from multiple autonomously functioning nodules in the thyroid gland presents slowly , milder symptoms ↑↑ in the elderly

Other less common causes –Thyroiditis
♦ post-partum
♦ radiation
♦ sub-acute ( de Quervain )
♦ chronic thyroiditis ( Hashimoto / lymphocytic ) Gestational thyrotoxicosis ( hCG stimulated ) Neonatal thyrotoxicosis Exogenous iodine Drugs e.g amiodarone Thyrotoxicosis factitia ( self treatment secretly with T4 ) TSH secreting pituitary tumors ( rare )

Can be quite insidious with patients often blaming other causes for their symptoms for e.g

♦ fatigue to work or family responsibility
♦ heat intolerance to weather
♦ weight loss to en effective diet
♦ dyspnoea and palpitation to being unfit

Other presenting features can include
 ↑ appetite irritability and behaviour change restlessness malaise stiffness muscle weakness , proximal
myelopathy , hyper-reflexia tremor oligomenorrhoea infertility , amenorrhoea diarrhoea itching , urticaria , vitiligo , diffuse
alopecia deterioration in bl glucose control. polyuria loss of libido gynaecomastia onycholysis tall stature ( in children ) sweating eye signs ( lid lag or retraction ) Grave’s dermopathy ( rare ) splenomegaly , lymphadenopathy chorea ( rare )

Complications – Grave’s orbitopathy – difficult to treat and requires a multi-disciplinary approach Thyroid storm ( thyrotoxic crisis ) Atrial fibrillation Heart failure Osteoporosis Psychiatric features as anxiety , mood disorders , rarely frank psyhosis Thyrotoxic periodic paralysis ( very rare ) Adverse pregnancy outcomes

Thyroid storm-rare and life threatening event which may be precipitated by Infection Trauma Childbirth Diabetic ketoacidosis MI. Surgery Stroke Abrupt withdrawal of antithyroid medication or acute ingestion of thyroid medication-Sinus tachycardia
 or a variety of SV arrhythmia’s e.g paroxysmal atrial tachycardia , atrial flutter and AF often accompanied by various degrees of CCF. GI symptoms as vomiting , diarrhoea , intestinal obstruction, fever , CNS symptoms. dehydration jaundice electrolyte imbalance tremor shock goiter/ thyromegaly hyper-reflexia pretibial myxedema

Examine –pulse bp temp examine the gland CV exam Eye symptoms Tremor Reflexes Skin Palmar erythema Mental state is it drug related ?. Test- Check TSH Check TSH + FT4 and FT3 after 1-2 months- exclude non-thyroidal illness Inflammatory markers as CRP/ ESR if subacute thyroiditis is suspected Thyroid stimulating hormone receptor antibodies ( TRAbs ) FBC LFT Consider US if goiter suspected. ↑↑ SHBG Anaemia – can be microcytic , normocytic or macrocytic Mild granulocytopenia 
(in Grave’s disease ) ↑↑ AlkPo4 and liver transaminases. 

If the aetiology of thyrotoxicosis is not clear – a radionuclide scan should be considered ( RAUI )- this is a measurement of thyroid function. Prescribe a beta blocker e.g propranolol and titrate the dose based on clinical response
Propranolol 10-40 mg tds A calcium channel blocker can be considered for those who cannot take a beta blocker If on amiodarone / lithium – seek specialist advice Eye disease – if symptoms present issue lubricants and arrange early referral to ophthalmology Consider checking TFT every 4-6 weeks while awaiting specialist opinion.

Thyroid eye disease-dry eyes diplopia pain on eye movements proptosis ( exopthlamos ) lid retraction lid lag on downgaze chemosis conjunctival injection orbital fat prolapse karatopathy periorbital swelling optic neuropathy. For those with TED 85 % have hyperthyroidism , 10 % have hypothyroidism and 5 % euthyroid

Anti-thyroid drugs-Inhibit hormone synthesis ( thioamides )
♦ propylthiouracil – usually not 1st line ( small risk severe liver injury )
♦ carbimazole ( first line )- ling 1/2 life can be given once daily
Alert- can cause neutropenia , agranulocytsosis
Acute pancreatitis ( MHRA 2019 )
Pregnancy-unsafe Antithyroid drugs usually reduce symptoms within days Most patients would be euthyroid 4-6 weeks after treatment with carbimazole 
After this 2 strategies may be used
Titration block regimen
Block-replace regimen F/U – follow the specialist guidance , the treatment would be guided until e.g
resolution of thyroiditis
one year of remission in Grave’s disease
TFT is stable after radioactive iodine or thyroid surgery Warn patients and advice to suspend antithyroid Rx if they develop mouth ulcers , fever, sore throat or other symptoms suggestive of infection


NICE hyperthyroidism in adults : management and monitoring a visual summary

Full NICE guidance on Thyroid disease

An excellent resource from Thyroid Org

Thyroid eye disease charitable trust

Education for health professionals on Endocrine disorders

Another huge endocrinology resource Endotext


  1. Hyperthyroid disorders Terry F Davies et al Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, Chapter 12 , 369-415
  2. Hyperthyroidism Nathanel J McKeown DO et al Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America
  3. New diagnosis of hyperthyroidism in primary care BMJ 2018 ;362 :k2880
  4. CKS NHS Hyperthyroidism
  5. Kumar and Clarks Clinical Medicine – Edited by Parveen Kumar , Michael Clark
  6. Management of thyrotoxic crisis European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2005 : 9 : 69-74
  7. Fast Facts : Thyroid Disorders
  8. Evaluating and managing patients with thyrotoxicosis RACGP Volume 41 , No 8 , August 2012 Pages 564-572
  9. De Leo, Simone et al. “Hyperthyroidism.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 388,10047 (2016): 906-918. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00278-6


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