What is thyroid storm?
storm is a life-threatening health condition that is associated with untreated
or undertreated hyperthyroidism. During thyroid storm, an individual’s heart
rate, blood pressure, and body temperature can soar to dangerously high levels.
Without prompt, aggressive treatment, thyroid storm is often fatal.
is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the middle of your lower neck.
The two essential
thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
These control the rate at which every cell in your body works (your
metabolism). If you have hyperthyroidism, your thyroid is producing too much of
these two hormones. This causes all of your cells to work too quickly. For
example, your respiration rate and heart rate will be higher than they normally
would. You may even speak far more quickly than you usually do.
Causes of thyroid storm
storm is rare. It develops in people who have hyperthyroidism but aren’t
receiving appropriate treatment. This condition is marked by the extreme
overproduction of the two hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Not all
people with hyperthyroidism will develop thyroid storm. Causes of this
- severe undertreated hyperthyroidism
- untreated overactive thyroid gland
- infection associated with hyperthyroidism
hyperthyroidism may develop thyroid storm after experiencing one of the
- severe emotional distress
- diabetic ketoacidosis
- congestive heart failure
- pulmonary embolism
Symptoms of thyroid storm
thyroid storm are similar to those of hyperthyroidism, but they are more
sudden, severe, and extreme. The symptoms are often debilitating, which is why
people with thyroid storm might not be able to seek care on their own. Common
- racing heart rate (tachycardia) that exceeds 140 beats
per minute, and atrial fibrillation
- high fever
- persistent sweating
Diagnosing thyroid storm
with hyperthyroidism who experience any symptoms of thyroid storm are typically
admitted to the emergency room. If you suspect you or someone else has thyroid
storm symptoms, call 911 immediately. People with thyroid storm generally
exhibit an increased heart rate, as well as a high top blood pressure number
(systolic blood pressure).
will measure your thyroid hormone levels with a blood test. Thyroid stimulating
hormone (TSH) levels tend to be low in hyperthyroidism and thyroid storm. According
to the American
Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), normal values for TSH range from 0.4
to 4 mIU/L. T3 and T4 hormones are higher than normal in people with thyroid
storm develops abruptly and affects all the systems of your body. Treatment
will begin as soon as thyroid storm is suspected — usually before lab results
are ready. Antithyroid medication like propylthiouracil (also called PTU) or
methimazole (Tapazole) will be given to reduce the production of these hormones
by the thyroid.
requires ongoing care. People with hyperthyroidism may be treated with
radioactive iodine, which destroys the thyroid, or a course of drugs to
suppress thyroid function temporarily. Pregnant women who have hyperthyroidism can’t
be treated with radioactive iodine because it would harm the unborn child. In
those cases, the woman’s thyroid would be removed surgically.
should avoid taking iodine in lieu of medical treatment, as this can worsen the
condition. If your thyroid is destroyed by radioactive iodine treatment or
removed surgically, you will need to take synthetic thyroid hormone for the
rest of your life.
storm requires immediate, aggressive emergency medical attention. When left
untreated, thyroid storm can cause congestive heart failure. Patients may also
experience fluid-filled lungs. According to an article published in a German medical journal, the
mortality rate for people with untreated thyroid storm is 75 percent.
of surviving thyroid storm increase if you quickly seek medical care. Related
complications may be lessened once your thyroid hormone levels are returned to
the normal range (known as euthyroid).
Preventing thyroid storm
The most effective way to prevent the onset of thyroid storm
is to keep up with your thyroid health plan. Take your medications properly.
Keep all appointments with your doctor and follow through with blood work
orders as needed.