What Causes Hyperthyroidism?

To successfully treat and prevent recurrence of hyperthyroidism we need to understand and — if possible — remove the underlying causes and risk factors.  We need to ask: "What else is going on inside the body that might allow hyperthyroidism to develop?"

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Accurate diagnosis of the factors behind hyperthyroidism consists of three steps:

Step 1: List the Possible Causative Factors

Identify all disease conditions, lifestyle choices and environmental risk factors that can lead to hyperthyroidism.  Here are four possibilities:
  • Cigarette Smoke Damage
  • Iodine Need
  • Copper Deficiency
  • Adrenal Fatigue

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

Identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
history of postpartum depression
short-term cortisol use
history of hypoglycemia
regular infections
poor tolerance of heat
unusual vaginal bleeding
very tender muscles
secondhand smoke exposure
adult acne
recently quitting smoking
red palms/fingertips
... and more than 50 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of hyperthyroidism:
Cause Probability Status
Iodine Need 97% Confirm
Copper Deficiency 24% Unlikely
Cigarette Smoke Damage 2% Ruled out
Adrenal Fatigue 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

In the Glandular Symptoms section of the questionnaire, The Analyst™ will ask the following question about hyperthyroidism:
Possible responses:
→ Never had it / don't know
→ Probably had it/minor episode(s) now resolved
→ Major episode(s) now resolved
→ Current minor problem
→ Current significant problem
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate either history of hyperthyroidism or hyperthyroidism, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Copper Deficiency

Although supportive data is limited, a report from a study group of hyperthyroid women suggests that copper status should at least be investigated in women with hyperthyroidism.

"Thyroid and immune system health are crucially dependent upon copper.  As far as I can see now, copper deficiency is the most important factor in the development of hyperthyroidism.  Virtually all hypers in the hyperthyroidism group have found that copper supplementation reduced their symptoms, usually within hours or a few days at most.  Most have reported that within three to six months of beginning copper supplementation, they have been able to significantly reduce their intake of antithyroid drugs.  While copper is the big story in hyperthyroidism, it is not the whole story.  If it were, it would have been discovered years ago.  Proper copper metabolism interrelates with and depends upon many other nutrients." [John Johnson, iThyroid.com]

Iodine Requirement

Hyperthyroidism may occur, particularly in elderly people, due to long term slight iodine deficiency as this may result in additional nodules on the thyroid.

Cigarette Smoke Damage

A study of 132 pairs of twins (264 subjects) showed that smoking can have negative effects on the endocrine system, causing a 3- to 5-fold increase in the risk of all types of thyroid disease.  The association was most pronounced in autoimmune disorders (Graves' disease and autoimmune thyroiditis), although there was still a strong association for non-autoimmune thyroid disorders.

Underlying hyperthyroidism often returns after antithyroid drugs are discontinued.  For this reason, patients are often advised to consider a treatment that permanently prevents the thyroid gland from producing too much thyroid hormone.

... and also rule out issues such as:
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