My uncle had a thyroid storm. What causes this and what are the symptoms? Is it life-threatening?
Thyroid storm is an extreme manifestation of hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland. It is a life-threatening condition, always requiring emergency medical treatment and hospitalization.
Thyroid storm is most frequently associated with Graves’s disease, a form of overactive thyroid. It usually occurs in people whose hyperthyroidism has gone untreated or inadequately controlled. Surgery, infection and several other factors may trigger it.
In conjunction with the pituitary, the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone, which plays a role in many bodily functions. In hyperthyroid conditions, the thyroid produces too much hormone. But in thyroid storm, something triggers the gland to produce even more and it floods the body with thyroid hormone.
Symptoms of thyroid storm may include a very high fever, racing heartbeat, tremor, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, delirium, coma and more.
Without immediate treatment, the patient may die from heart, liver or other problems. Fortunately, thyroid storm has become quite rare these days, thanks to improved early detection and treatment of hyperthyroidism. Treatment has vastly improved as well.
Some 30 years ago, the majority of people with thyroid storm died as a result of the condition. Today, depending on the individual’s situation, most people survive thyroid storm and, with better management of their disease, can avoid having it twice.