Thyrotoxicosis (overactive thyroid gland) occurs when the thyroid produces too much hormone. This can produce a number of symptoms including weight loss, feeling excessively hot, tremors, diarrhoea, menstrual irregularities in women, and eye problems.
Thyrotoxicosis occurs in two forms – Grave’s disease, which occurs most commonly in young women, and toxic nodular goitre, which usually occurs in middle aged and elderly people who have had thyroid nodules (goitre) for many years.
The initial treatment for thyrotoxicosis is with medication that reduces hormone production, most commonly one called carbimazole. This medication will only give a long-term cure in around 50% of people, however.
If medication does not lead to a cure, then the options that remain are surgery to remove all of the thyroid gland, or radioactive iodine treatment. It is usually patient preference that decides which treatment is undertaken. There are some patients, however, in whom surgery is a better option:
- Those that want a rapid cure with no chance of needing further treatment
- Those with significant eye disease
- Those who have a large goitre
- Those who do not wish to be denied close contact with family members (particularly young children) for some time after treatment
The section on thyroid surgery covers specific details of what an operation on the thyroid involves, what you can expect in terms of length of stay in hospital and recovery afterwards.