News & Events: Member Articles

A Silent Cause of Weight Loss
By Louito C. Edje, MD

Nancy W. is a 24 year-old woman who I noticed was losing weight without much effort. She had also noticed that her heart seemed to beat fast even if she had not been particularly active. Her periods were much lighter than normal over the past three months.

She made an appointment with me because she wanted to make sure she was okay before she tried to become pregnant. After further inquiry she admitted to having some difficulty tolerating heat and had a fine tremor of her hands. A friend that she had not seen in a while had mentioned that her eyes looked different from their appearance the last time they had seen each other.

I examined Nancy and found her thyroid to be soft and mildly enlarged. The thyroid is a bow-tie shaped organ that lives in the same location that a bow-tie would be found in the lower half of the neck. It has many responsibilities including regulation of menstruation, maintenance of normal body temperature and metabolism. Nancy’s eyes appeared prominent but her vision was good. Her heart rate was slightly increased but very regular. She had lost fifteen pounds in the year since I had previously seen her.

We discussed obtaining some blood work to find out how her thyroid was functioning and decided to do a thyroid uptake scan to give us a picture of her thyroid in action. The thyroid uses iodine to make its hormone. An overactive thyroid is likely to utilize more iodine. The scan allows us to determine how aggressively the thyroid is using iodine that has been specially labeled. The scan typically takes several hours to complete.

Nancy‘s thyroid hormone levels indicated that she had an overactive thyroid. The scan confirmed this and reassured us that there was no overactive cancerous thyroid tissue. This particular form of overactive thyroid is called Grave’s disease. The treatment of overactive thyroid disease primarily consists of decreasing the thyroid activity.

Nancy decided to try medication to manage her thyroid condition, her other options include taking a one-time dose of radioactive iodine to decrease the function of the thyroid and one other option is surgery to decrease the thyroid size.

My patient is feeling like herself again, her weight has stabilized. She plans to attempt getting pregnant and during her pregnancy we will be monitoring her thyroid hormone levels closely.

Louito C. Edje, MD Academy of Medicine of Toledo and Lucas County