Thyroid Storm is Life-Threatening

Thyroid Storm large

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Like any storm, thyroid storm can be devastating. It happens when hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, goes untreated. This allows excess thyroid hormone produced by your thyroid gland to build up in your body (thyrotoxicosis) and compromise multiple organs.

Thyroid storm is a rare and life-threatening condition, especially if it’s not diagnosed and treated within a few days of onset. Fortunately, experts know more about how to treat thyroid storm than a century ago when mortality was 100 percent.

If you’ve been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Treating hyperthyroidism is the best prevention for thyroid storm.

Stopping Thyroid Storm Before it Starts

While you can’t prevent the ravages of Mother Nature, you can reduce the likelihood of thyroid storm. If you’ve been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Treating hyperthyroidism is the best prevention for thyroid storm.

When hyperthyroidism is not treated, it can push multiple body systems beyond their ability to compensate for the higher levels of thyroid hormone in your body. This can create cardiovascular, central nervous system and gastrointestinal dysfunction. For example, heart failure and pulmonary edema can develop rapidly and cause death.

Thyroid storm still carries a 10 to 20 percent mortality rate despite prevention and treatment advances.

Knowing the Symptoms of Thyroid Storm

Thyroid Storm smallIt’s important to know the symptoms of thyroid storm, especially fever and confusion, so you can seek immediate care. Successful treatment relies heavily on early diagnosis.

Call 911 if you have hyperthyroidism and experience symptoms of thyroid storm. Even a day’s delay can quickly become fatal as many organs become involved.

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Agitation
  • Change in alertness (consciousness)
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased temperature
  • Pounding heart (tachycardia)
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking
  • Sweating

A major stress such as trauma, heart attack, infection or even childbirth may trigger thyroid storm.

Diagnosis often is not straightforward since there’s no such thing as a typical patient. One patient might experience high levels of excess thyroid hormone and not develop thyroid storm. A similar patient may tip over into thyroid storm upon experiencing a major stress.

Treating Thyroid Storm

Treatment must be immediate, multipronged and balanced with an understanding of how each patient is responding to treatment. The goal is to decrease the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. Treatment also includes symptom reduction.

Treatment may include any of the following:

  • Oxygen and fluids
  • Cooling blankets to return the body temperature to normal
  • Monitoring any excess fluid in older people with heart or kidney disease
  • Medicines to manage agitation
  • Nutrition (vitamins and glucose)
  • Anti-thyroid drugs and iodine treatment (blocks thyroid hormone production and release)
  • Antibiotics in cases of infection
  • Dialysis and plasmapheresis (used as last resort)

Treatment success can vary from patient to patient as each person’s body compensates differently for excess thyroid hormone. Using cooling blankets, for example, may help one patient but may cause a rising temperature in another patient.

With proper treatment, patients generally improve within a few days, and full recovery typically occurs within a week. To prevent recurrence, work with your health care provider to manage and treat your hyperthyroidism.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.