Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prognosis, Prevention, Diagnosis

What is Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis?

Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis is a potentially serious and at times fatal complication that arises due to untreated hyperthyroidism. In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid starts producing and releasing excessive hormones which impact the metabolic rate of the body. It also interferes with certain involuntary functions of the body like the heart rate and the blood pressure.

When the heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure increases to levels considered extremely dangerous for the individual due to overactive thyroid then that condition is termed as Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis. In many cases, this complication is fatal unless prompt treatment is given.

What is Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis?

What Is The Cause Of Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis?

Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis is quite a rare phenomenon. It is seen in people who do not get adequately treated for a known diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. Overproduction of thyroid hormones is the primary cause of hyperthyroidism.

It is not necessary for all individuals with hyperthyroidism to get Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis. Apart from untreated hyperthyroidism, some of the other causes of Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis are:

  • Infections as a result of hyperthyroidism
  • Trauma as a result of hyperthyroidism
  • People with hyperthyroidism undergoing a surgical procedure
  • Excessive stress in people with hyperthyroidism may also result in Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis
  • People who have hyperthyroidism and end up with stroke also can develop Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis
  • Hyperthyroid individuals who additionally have congestive heart failure may go on to have Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis

What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis?

The presenting features of Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis are similar to hyperthyroidism except that the symptoms are extremely severe and sudden in onset. This is the reason why people who have Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis are not able to manage the symptoms without the help of a physician and require emergency room admission. The primary presenting features of Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis include:

  • Tachycardia with heart rate above 145 beats per minute along with atrial fibrillation
  • Extremely high grade fever
  • Constant sweating
  • Persistent shaking
  • The individual may look agitated and restless
  • There may also be mental confusion
  • In some cases, the patient may lose consciousness

How is Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis Diagnosed?

As soon as an individual experiences the above symptoms, he is admitted to the emergency room where the patient’s thyroid levels will be checked. The average TSH levels in hyperthyroidism tend to be on the lower side much more so in Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis. This will give a confirmatory diagnosis of Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis.

How is Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis Treated?

The treatment begins as soon as a diagnosis of Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis is made. The patient is given antithyroid drugs to decrease the thyroid hormone levels.

Once the patient stabilizes, treatment for hyperthyroidism is outlined. This is quite an exhaustive process and requires diligence from both the patient and the family members.

Radioactive thyroid is one way of treating hyperthyroidism. There are also a host of other medications that may be given to reduce the levels of thyroid hormones produced. For pregnant females, since radioactive thyroid is not a treatment option due to risk of damaging the fetus the thyroid gland itself may have to be removed.

It is also advised people with a history of a previous Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis stop taking any form of iodine in the diet as this can worsen the condition. In case if the thyroid gland gets completely damaged or removed then it is mandatory for the patient to take synthetic form of thyroid hormone throughout the life.

What is the Prognosis of Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis?

Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis is an emergent medical condition and if left untreated can be fatal for the patient as it may lead to fluids being filled in the lungs or severe congestive heart failure. Studies have estimated that around 70% of people with untreated Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis tend to succumb to the condition; however, the prognosis become reasonably good if prompt treatment is given and the patient is able to control thyroid levels through diet and medication.

How can Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis be Prevented?

The best way to prevent Thyroid Storm or Thyroid Crisis is by getting regular checkups if the individual has a known diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. The patient should take medications as advised and should not skip follow through with the physician. Regular lab checks are also important to check the status of the thyroid gland.

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