Endocrinology 3a – Hyperthyroid Disorders 2
1. List the different possible causes of hyperthyroidism.
2. Describe the clinical features of hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease and thyroid
3. List and explain the different treatments available for hyperthyroidism and thyroid
cancer. The following specific questions highlight some important
4. Drugs and Hyperthyroid Conditions.
i) To which class of drugs does carbimazole belong?
ii) Name another drug of the same class used to treat hyperthyroidism.
iii) Using a labelled diagram of the steps in the synthesis of thyroid hormones
(see diagram in handout) explain the mechanisms of action of the
iv) Using carbimazole as an example, explain the term 'pro-drug'.
v) Describe the signs and symptoms which will disappear after treatment with
vi) Describe two situations in which hyperthyroid patients may be given large
doses of potassium iodide.
vii) Why is radioactive iodine an effective therapy for hyperthyroidism?
viii) Name two drugs used in thyroid function tests.
Antibodies bind to stimulate to the TSH receptor in the thyroid.
Causes smooth goitre
Different from Grave’s disease in that:
There is a toxic nodular goitre
It is NOT autoimmune
There is a benign adenoma that is overactive and makes thyroxine
No pretibial myxoedema present.
No exophthalmos seen.
There will be low TSH
Thyroid Storm – a medical emergency. Any 2 of the following results in thyroid
storm - 50% death if untreated.
Heart rhythm becomes irregular
Hyperpyrexia (body temperature above 41oC)
Hepatocellular dysfunction; jaundice
Antibodies also bind to the muscles behind the eyes causes exophthalmos
(forward protrusion of eyeballs).
Pretibial myxoedema – thickening of skin on anterior lower leg.
Thyroid is larger – can cause goitre (smooth in Grave’s disease).
Weight loss despite increased appetite.
Heat intolerance due to increased temperature.
Lid lag – (Von Graefe's sign) lagging of upper eyelid in downward movement of
Oligomenorrhoea / amenorrhoea in women.
Gynaecomastia in men.
Feeling of fatigue
Effects of Thyroxine:
Increases basal metabolic rate.
Weight loss despite increased appetite
Increase in temperature
Sensitises beta adrenoceptors to ambient levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Thus there is apparent sympathetic activation
Tachycardia, palpitations, tremor in hands, lid lag e.t.c.
- Surgery (thyroidectomy)
o Removal of thyroid gland
o Risk of loss of parathyroids causing hypocalcaemia
o Have to take calcium every day
o Damage to recurrent laryngeal nerve
- Radioiodine (capsule of radioactive iodine)
o Irradiates thyroid gland.
o Propanolol (β-blocker)
o Carbimazole, Propylthiouracil (anti-thyroid drugs)
- Some people have relapsing hyperthyroidism
o Lifelong antithyroid drugs forever
Viral (de Quervain’s) Thyroiditis
A virus attacks the thyroid gland resulting in:
Hyperthyroidism – the thyroid stops making thyroxine and makes virus instead
The thyroid gland is no longer visible on a thyroid scan because of the lack of
thyroxine being produced. There is no iodine uptake and so no thyroxine is going to
be synthesised. After around 4 weeks, patients have hypothyroidism.
After a month, when the virus is resolved, patients return back to normal thyroid
Normal 1 month hyperthyroidism 1 month hypothyroidism normal
♦ Papillary (takes up radioiodine)
♦ Follicular (takes up radioiodine)
♦ Anaplastic (bad news)
♦ Medullary (rare)
Both papillary and follicular cancers can be encouraged to grow by TSH. In this case
a total thyroidectomy is needed with a large dose of radioiodine. Large amounts of
thyroxine should also be given to stop the TSH production.
carbimazole & propylthiouracil
These are use to treat hyperthyroidism conditions such as diffuse toxic goitre/Graves
disease/exophthalmic goitre. They are also used in treatment before surgery or during
thyroid irradiation with radioiodine.
Mode of Action
Their mechanism of action is
not clearly understood but it
is thought that they work by
inhibiting the action and
production of antibodies in
Grave’s disease and reducing
conversion of T4 to T3 in
Their clinical effects may
take weeks because of
hormone store in colloid.
• agranulocytosis/ granulocytopenia (reduction or absence of granular leukocytes) -
rare and reversible on withdrawal of drug.
• rashes (relatively common)
• Tachycardia and tremor
• joint pain
• Can be give with a β-blocker to stop the tachycardia and tremor
• Administered orally
• Carbimazole is a pro-drug which first has to be converted to methimazole
• Half life of 6-15 hours
• Crosses placenta and is secreted in milk
• Metabolised in liver and secreted in urine
Name – Iodide
These are used mainly in thyrotoxicosis, thyroid storm and in preparation before
Mode of Action
Iodide is given in large doses (30 times that normally taken) and can inhibit the
production of thyroid hormones. Inhibits the secretion of thyroid hormones in
thyrotoxic patients. Inhibition of iodination of thyroglobulin by swamping with
iodine. Also inhibits H2O2 generation.
• Allergic reaction e.g. rashes, fever, angio-oedema
• Given orally, maximum effects after 10 days’ continuous administration
Name - Radioiodine – 131I:
Used in hyperthyroidism to kill tumours. It is also used in very small doses to assess
thyroid function. It works in that it imitates the action of iodine, but the radioisotope
is selectively cytotoxic for thyroid cells.
Mode of Action
Body processes isotope as for stable iodide; isotope concentrates in thyroid gland
and becomes incorporated into thyroglobulin
Cytotoxic, almost selectively on thyroid follicular cells by virtue of irradiating β-
particles which have a very short rage (γ- particles have a long range and pass
straight through the tissue)
Negligible cytotoxicity when used as tracer doses for thyroid function tests
Give as a single dose (orally in Grave’s, orally or IV in tracer tests)
Half life = 8 days
Radioactivity negligible by 2 months
Maximum effect after 2-3 months
Avoid in children and pregnant patients
50% of patients presenting with hyperthyroid Grave’s disease will go into
remission after 18 months of treatment with drugs. In the 50% that do not go into
remission there are 3 choices:
Life long anti-thyroid drugs
Surgery – subtotal thyroidectomy. Risk of loss if parathyroids and associated
hypocalcaemia and risk of damage to recurrent laryngeal nerve and voice damage