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Thyroid Storm: 10 Warning Symptoms of This Unusual Medical Emergency

Thyroid Storm: 10 Warning Symptoms of This Unusual Medical Emergency
Thyroid storm: What you need to know about this medical emergency

Thyroid storm: What you need to know about this medical emergency.

Written by Satata Karmakar |Updated : May 28, 2023 12:02 PM IST

Thyroid storm also known as thyrotoxic crisis is a severe and life-threatening medical condition in which the thyroid gland releases excessive amounts of hormones into the bloodstream. This condition is usually seen in individuals with a pre-existing thyroid disorder, such as Graves' disease. Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes an over-functioning thyroid gland and is more common in females.

We spoke to Dr Jasjeet Singh Wasir, Director, of Endocrinology and Diabetology, Medanta Gurugram, to understand more about this unusual medical emergency and what one should do to stay safe.

Symptoms of Thyroid Storms

A thyroid storm is caused by a sudden and excessive release of thyroid hormone into the blood, resulting in a diverse array of severe symptoms. Thyroid storm may present with a rapid and irregular heartbeat, high fever, profuse sweating, extreme fatigue, inability to sleep, severe anxiety and weakness. Tremulousness of hands and muscle weakness may contribute to overall physical distress. Unexplained weight loss in spite of a good appetite, diarrhoea, or vomiting may occur, further deteriorating the individual's health.

When untreated Thyroid storms can also cause changes in mental state, such as confusion or agitation, making it difficult to focus or communicate coherently. Additionally, breathlessness or difficulty in breathing may be experienced, necessitating immediate medical attention.

Thyroid Storm demands immediate medical attention due to its potential complications like organ failure and high mortality rate if left untreated. Therefore, it is essential to understand the signs and symptoms of thyroid storm to facilitate timely diagnosis and early treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

Factors that can trigger a thyroid storm include infection, surgery, discontinuation or nonadherence of anti-thyroid medications, severe emotional or physical stress, and untreated or poorly controlled hyperthyroidism. People who have undergone radioactive iodine therapy or have a history of thyroid surgery may also be at an increased risk. Females are also at increased risk due to the higher prevalence of autoimmune disorders among them along with hormonal fluctuations that occur during the menstrual cycle.

Consequences of untreated or delayed treatment in thyroid storms:

Untreated or delayed treatment of a thyroid storm can lead to life-threatening complications, including heart failure, blood clot formation, fits, confusion, coma etc.


The management of thyroid storms necessitates immediate medical attention and hospitalization. The primary objectives of treatment are to stabilize the patient, curtail further hormone release, and effectively manage symptoms. The other treatment options for thyroid storms include:

  • Beta-blockers such as Propranolol to regulate heart rate and alleviate palpitations and tremulousness
  • Anti-thyroid drugs such as propylthiouracil (PTU) and methimazole are prescribed to impede the production of thyroid hormones
  • Iodine therapy aids in reducing thyroid hormone release into the bloodstream
  • Steroids are employed to suppress the immune response and mitigate the inflammation associated with thyroid storms

Additionally, supportive care is crucial, involving intravenous fluids, measures to reduce high fever etc are also required while managing this condition. Even though Thyroid storm is rare, it can lead to life-threatening emergencies that demand immediate medical attention. In India, where thyroid disorders are very much prevalent, awareness of the symptoms of thyroid storm is crucial for timely intervention. Prompt medical treatment and awareness can significantly improve the prognosis of individuals experiencing a thyroid storm. Raising awareness among the general public is. essential for early recognition and management of this life-threatening condition.

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