Mostly, thyroid disorders are not emergency conditions that require immediate medical attention. But, thyroid storm is an exception and is very rare. Read on…
It is a common fact that the thyroid gland produces some of the vital hormones that are necessary for a whole lot of bodily functions. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are among the common thyroid gland disorders. While, hyperthyroidism is the condition that is caused by overproduction of thyroid hormones, hypothyroidism indicates low levels of these hormones.
Usually, hyperthyroidism is not life-threatening and is managed well with proper medications and care. But, there are certain complications associated with hyperthyroidism. This include eye problems, heart problems, bone problems, thyrotoxic crisis, etc. Among them, thyrotoxic crisis, which is otherwise known as thyrotoxicosis or thyroid storm, is a rare and life-threatening complication that requires immediate medical attention.
What is Thyroid Storm?
Hyperthyroidism is characterized by symptoms like, rapid heartbeats, sweating, weight loss, eye problems, etc. These symptoms are caused by the oversecretion of thyroid hormones. Under certain circumstances, the thyroid gland will produce a large amount of such hormones, within a short duration, causing worsening of the symptoms. Such condition is called thyroid storm (thyrotoxicosis or thyrotoxic crisis), which is very uncommon and rare. As per statistics, around 1% to 2% of people with hyperthyroidism may develop this condition, which can cause severe symptoms that can be life-threatening. It is mostly seen in females.
What are the Symptoms of Thyroid Storm?
As mentioned above, symptoms of this thyroid condition are found to be severe and life-threatening. This include very high body temperature, rapid heartbeats, chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, high systolic and diastolic blood pressure, increased sweating, confusion, delirium, weakness, nausea or vomiting and/or diarrhea.
The characteristic feature of thyroid storm is the increased body temperature that may sometimes be as high as 106 degree Fahrenheit. Levels of T3 and T4 hormones in the blood will shoot up. If treatment is not provided at the earliest, this condition may lead to coma, heart failure and even death. So, immediate medical attention is the most important requirement, if a person develops this condition.
What Causes Thyroid Storm?
Now it is clear that untreated or under treated hyperthyroidism is the basic cause of thyroid storm. If left untreated, Graves disease (autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism) may also lead to this condition. Even undetected hyperthyroidism may cause this complication.
- Use of thyroid hormones in high doses can cause thyroid storm.
- Abrupt discontinuation of medications for hyperthyroidism.
- Severe infections (especially, of the lung and throat) in hyperthyroid patients.
- Thyroid surgery in people with hyperthyroidism.
- Heart attacks and other emergency heart problems (usually in those with hyperthyroidism).
- Even pregnancy can sometimes cause this thyroid problem.
- Other causes include treatment with radioactive iodine, extreme changes in blood sugar, severe emotional stress and excessive handling of the gland.
So, thyroid storm is a condition that needs immediate treatment. Even diagnosing this condition is very important, as it may mimic sepsis, hyperthermia and other such conditions. It is often diagnosed with the help of blood tests to find out the levels of thyroid hormones, sugar, electrolytes and blood cell count. Even liver function tests are performed in some patients. Treatment of thyroid storm involves medication for lowering the levels of thyroid hormones circulating in blood and to block the production of these hormones.
Drugs to lower fever and to normalize heart rate, will be administered to the patient. Even steroids may be used for boosting circulation. Apart from that, intravenous fluids, electrolytes and oxygen may also be required. If the patient has suffered heart failure, treatment for that condition will also be given. Usually, the patient will be admitted to the intensive care unit for careful monitoring. After recovery, the patient has to go for regular checkups and take relevant treatment to control hyperthyroidism. In short, if you experience the above mentioned symptoms, you must seek immediate medical treatment, so as to avoid further complications.