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The thyroid is a very small gland in front of the neck that converts iodine into the hormone needed to regulate the body's metabolism. Having high thyroid levels means that at the time the levels were assessed (through a blood test), the thyroid was producing too much thyroxine (T4) and/or triiodothyronine (T3), the two hormones that constitute the "thyroid hormone." Having high thyroid levels is indicative of an underlying health condition that results in the gland being overstimulated.
The effects of high thyroid levels is indicative of hyperthyroidism, of which there are several different underlying causes 2. But no matter what triggers high thyroid levels, the signs and symptoms that patients exhibit are fairly static. Because:
- too much thyroid hormone means an increased metabolism
- high thyroid symptoms include unexplained weight loss
- heat intolerance
- high blood pressure
- an increased resting heart rate
Patients with high thyroid levels may have difficulty falling and staying asleep. When hyperthyroidism is advanced, patients might be short of breath and develop muscle weakness 2. Disorders that lead to hyperthyroidism often develop slowly, making this condition difficult for endocrinology and thyroid specialists to diagnose in its early stages, which is critical in the case of thyroid cancer 2.
- The effects of high thyroid levels is indicative of hyperthyroidism, of which there are several different underlying causes 2.
What Does Low TSH Level Mean?
Graves' disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism that results in high thyroid levels 2. This condition is actually an autoimmune disorder that causes antibodies to "attack" the thyroid gland in much the same way antibodies cause the body to react to airborne allergens. Patients with Graves' disease produce too much thyroxine (T4). Sometimes, high thyroid symptoms associated with Graves' disease include the tissue behind the patient's eyes being affected too, causing pressure behind the orbital sockets.
Thyroid nodules can also cause high thyroid levels because too much T4 to be released into the body. Nodules are almost always benign in nature, not related to thyroid cancer, and result when lumps form in one lobe of the gland. Not all thyroid nodules will result in overproduction of T4, however.
Dangerously High TSH Level
Thyroiditis occurs when the thyroid gland becomes inflamed. This too can result in high thyroid levels. Some types of thyroiditis, such as:
- subacute thyroiditis
- result in an enlarged
- painful thyroid gland
- while other types of thyroiditis are painless
Thyroiditis is typically transient in nature and may not need extensive medical treatment.
Treating High Thyroid Levels
Patients suffering from high thyroid symptoms should see a physician experienced in endocrinology and thyroid disorders. High thyroid symptoms are usually treated with oral anti-thyroid medications that inhibit the production of the thyroid hormone, the most common being methimazole (Tapazole). Beta blockers are also given in conjunction with anti-thyroid medications to treat high blood pressure and slow down the heart rate. Hyperthyroidism symptoms begin to go away in about six weeks, during which time high thyroid levels resolve 2. Other treatments for hyperthyroidism include radioactive iodine, which is taken orally to "kill" the thyroid gland so that it can no longer produce thyroid hormone 2. Patients who opt for this treatment will become hypothyroid and require lifetime hormone replacement therapy. Only rarely will surgery to remove the thyroid be necessary. This option is for patients who have a poor response to anti-thyroid medication or radioactive iodine therapy.
- Patients suffering from high thyroid symptoms should see a physician experienced in endocrinology and thyroid disorders.
- This option is for patients who have a poor response to anti-thyroid medication or radioactive iodine therapy.
What Does Low TSH Level Mean?
Dangerously High TSH Level
Thyroid Supplement Side Effects
What Does a High TSH Level Mean?
Thyroid & Calcium Absorption
Can Too Much Thyroid Medicine Cause High Calcium Levels?
What Are the Causes of Low TSH?
What Are the Causes of Slightly Elevated Thyroid Level?
Thyroid Problems and Distance Running
What Are the Treatments for High Cortisol?
- Endocrineweb: Introduction to hyperthyroidism
- Mayo Clinic: Hyperthyroidism
- Mayo Clinic: Hypothyroidism
- American Thyroid Association. General Information/Press Room.
- Pirahanchi Y, Jialal I. Physiology, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Updated April 25, 2019.
- AACC. Hashimoto Thyroiditis. Lab Tests Online. Updated October 18, 2019.
- DeGroot LJ. Graves’ Disease and the Manifestations of Thyrotoxicosis. [Updated 2015 Jul 11]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2015.
- Nguyen QT, Lee EJ, Huang MG, Park YI, Khullar A, Plodkowski RA. Diagnosis and treatment of patients with thyroid cancer. Am Health Drug Benefits. 2015;8(1):30-40.
- Bindra A, Braunstein GD. Thyroiditis. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(10):1769-76.
- Medeiros-Neto G. Multinodular Goiter. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Updated September 26, 2016.
- The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid). Published August 2016.
- The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid). Published August 2016.
- Brent GA. Environmental exposures and autoimmune thyroid disease. Thyroid. 2010;20(7):755-61. doi:10.1089/thy.2010.1636
- Mcaninch EA, Bianco AC. The history and future of treatment of hypothyroidism. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(1):50-6. doi:10.7326/M15-1799
- The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Grave’s Disease. Published September 2017.
- Stagnaro-Green, A., Abalovich, M, Alexander, E. et. al. Guidelines of the American thyroid association for the diagnosis and management of thyroid disease during pregnancy and postpartum. Thyroid. 2011(21)10. doi:10.1089/thy.2011.0087
- Liu G, Liang L, Bray GA, et al. Thyroid hormones and changes in body weight and metabolic parameters in response to weight loss diets: the POUNDS LOST trial. Int J Obes (Lond). 2017;41(6):878-886. doi:10.1038/ijo.2017.28
- Bahn R, Burch H, Cooper D, et al. Hyperthyroidism and other causes of thyrotoxicosis: Management guidelines of the American Thyroid Association and American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Endocrine Practice. 2011;17(3). doi:10.1089/thy.2010.0417
- Braverman L, Cooper D. Werner & Ingbar's The Thyroid, 10th Edition. WLL/Wolters Kluwer; 2012.
- Garber J, Cobin R, Gharib H, et. al. Clinical practice guidelines for hypothyroidism in adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Endocrine Practice. 2012;18(6). doi:10.1089/thy.2012.0205
- Haugen A, Alexander K., Bible K, et. al. 2015 American Thyroid Association Management guidelines for adult patients with thyroid nodules and differentiated thyroid cancer. Thyroid. 2016;26(1):1-133. doi:10.1089/thy.2015.0020
- Smallridge R, Ain K, Asa S, et. al. American Thyroid Association guidelines for management of patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer. Thyroid. 2012;22(11). doi:10.1089/thy.2012.0302
- Wells, S, Asa S, Dralle H, et. al. Revised American Thyroid Association guidelines for the management of medullary thyroid carcinoma. Thyroid. 2015;25(6). doi:10.1089/thy.2014.0335
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She's worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.