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Hyperthyroidism develops when the body is exposed to excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. This disorder occurs in approximately five to seven million Americans and affects women five to ten times more often than men. In its mildest form, hyperthyroidism may not cause recognizable symptoms. More often, however, the symptoms are discomforting, disabling, or even life-threatening. The most common form of this disorder is Graves' disease, also known as Diffuse Toxic Goiter.

Signs and Symptoms
When hyperthyroidism develops, a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid) is usually present and may be associated with some or many of the following symptoms: fast heart rate, (often more than 100 beats per minute), nervousness, anxiety, trembling hands, weight loss, intolerance of warm temperatures, increased likelihood to perspire, loss of scalp hair, rapid growth of fingernails and tendency of fingernails to separate from the nail bed, muscle weakness (especially of the upper arms and thighs), loose and frequent bowel movements, thin and delicate skin, change in menstrual pattern, increased likelihood for miscarriage, prominent "stare" of the eyes (with or without double vision in patients with Graves' disease), protrusion of the eyes (called Graves' ophthalmopathy), irregular heart rhythm (especially in patients older than 60 years of age), accelerated loss of calcium from bones (increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures).
Detection and Diagnosis
Characteristic symptoms and physical signs of hyperthyroidism can be detected by a physician. Tests can also be used to confirm the diagnosis and to determine the cause. These tests include Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH), free T4 (Thyroxine), free T3 (Triiodothyronine), Thyroid-Stimulating Immunoglobulin (TSI), and Radioactive Iodine Uptake (RAIU).
Deciding which treatment is best depends on the specific cause of the hyperthyroidism, its severity, and other conditions present. Treatment options include antithyroid drug therapy which blocks thyroid hormone production (such as methimazole and PTU); radioactive iodine treatment in which the overactive thyroid is disabled and reduced in size; and thyroid surgery to remove part, or all of the gland.
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