Thyroid Storm refers to a very serious health condition which arises from exacerbated instances of hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ situated internally, in the anterior portion of the neck, which synthesizes two key thyroid hormones – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), necessary for optimal immunity, growth and development, as well as metabolism. When surplus hormones are secreted by the thyroid gland, such as in Graves’ disease, the resulting ailment is termed as hyperthyroidism, which not only hampers metabolism and immunity, but could also trigger a stroke, heart failure.
In situations wherein hyperthyroidism is not diagnosed promptly and given proper medical treatment, the levels of thyroid hormones circulating in the system reach dangerously high amounts, leading to thyroid storm. Since this detrimental illness can pose grave risks like arrhythmia, heart failure and even result in loss of life, the indications must be reported at once to a healthcare professional and treated immediately. Although thyroid storm is a rare illness, it poses many dangers to overall health, including a decline in the function of other vital organs like the heart and lungs. It is therefore advised to get thyroid levels in blood tested routinely and understand the causes, symptoms, of thyroid storm, to precisely diagnose, rapidly treat the affected person, to normalize their thyroid hormone levels and ensure their complete recovery.
Causes Of Thyroid Storm
The underlying factor that induces a thyroid storm is hyperthyroidism. This stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete excess quantities of the thyroid hormones, which negatively impacts crucial organs and functions in the body, such as the heart, brain, liver, metabolism and respiration. Various reasons prompt hyperthyroidism in an individual, including:
- Formation of several thyroid nodules i.e. bulging masses in the neck
- Autoimmune disorders like Graves’ disease, that damages thyroid gland functions
- Viral infections like influenza, HIV
- Consuming a diet with very high amounts of iodine
- Cancer or tumour growths in the reproductive organs – testes and ovaries
The characteristic signs of thyroid storm closely resemble those experienced by a person with hyperthyroidism, but the indications tend to occur abruptly and at a much higher intensity. The symptoms of thyroid storm consist of:
- Elevated body temperature i.e. persistent fevers with physical discomfort, nausea, vomiting
- Unstable body, with constant shaking and trembling sensations
- A fidgety disposition, with poor mental clarity, fading memory and low concentration
- Loss of consciousness
- Excessive sweating
When symptoms of thyroid storm become more severe, it leads to acute complications of osteoporosis, the collapse of lung function and even heart failure.
A particular diagnostic assay to identify thyroid storm is not present. Generally, the healthcare provider thoroughly examines all the external physical indications portrayed by the patient, like a swift heartbeat, rise in body temperature, confused state of mind, to detect aberrant thyroid gland activity.
Blood samples are then collected from the patient and probed for high levels of thyroid glands T3 and T4 in free circulation and the concentrations of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (SH) are also measured. However, when the medical expert infers an instance of thyroid storm is being encountered by the patient, treatment is initiated at once to prevent harmful health-linked consequences and avert fatality.
The treatment for thyroid storm is primarily antithyroid medications administered to the patient in a hospital. These prescription drugs lower the rampant synthesis of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland and help to maintain stability in the body. This also normalizes the operations of the heart, lungs and liver, thereby regulating blood circulation, breathing and metabolism, detoxification tasks in the system.
However, hyperthyroidism is usually a long-term sickness and hence, requires constant monitoring and medications. At times, even radioactive iodine procedures may be performed, to eliminate the thyroid gland and stop the overproduction of T3, T4 hormones, to avoid injuring other vital organs of the heart and lungs. This procedure cannot be done for pregnant women since it poses risks for the developing foetus and in those cases of expecting mothers being diagnosed with thyroid storm, the thyroid gland is removed by surgery. In this manner, thyroid hormone levels are brought down to normal and optimal recovery of metabolism, as well as the overall health of the patient is ensured.