Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormones. In very rare cases, it can cause numbness and tingling, although the exact reason is still unclear.

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves that conduct signals between the central nervous system and the rest of the body become damaged.

Although rare, people with severe hyperthyroidism may experience polyneuropathy — a type of peripheral neuropathy — which is when there is damage to multiple nerves in the extremities, causing pain, numbness, and tingling.

This article looks at the symptoms of numbness and tingling related to hyperthyroidism, complications, and other causes of numbness and tingling.

It also covers the treatment and management options available, when to see a doctor, and symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

A person experiencing numbness and tingling as a result of hyperthyroidism.Share on Pinterest
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There may be an association between peripheral neuropathy and hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones.

However, there is little research on how hyperthyroidism affects the peripheral nerves, and it appears to be extremely rare.

Authors of a 2017 case report write about a 22-year-old male, who reported rapidly progressing polyradiculoneuropathy and paralysis. Polyradiculoneuropathy refers to gradual weakness or sensation changes affecting the arms and legs.

Laboratory tests revealed that he was experiencing severely high thyroid levels. After anti-thyroid treatment corrected the thyroid levels in his body, his symptoms of neuropathy improved.

Another older 2014 case report from India notes that the association of neuropathic symptoms with hyperthyroidism is uncommon.

In this case, clinicians treated a middle-aged male with distal neuropathy. He experienced mild sensory loss, pain, and vibration below the knees.

His symptoms improved with anti-thyroid treatment, which is the recommended treatment for hyperthyroidism.

It is not clear how hyperthyroidism can cause numbness and tingling.

The authors of the 2017 case report suggest that high levels of circulating thyroid hormones, or thyrotoxicosis, may cause changes to the nerves.

The Neurological Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke notes that hormonal imbalances may disrupt the metabolic process and lead to swollen tissues that squeeze peripheral nerves. That can lead to pins and needles or numbness in the extremities.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • nervousness or irritability
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • difficulty tolerating heat
  • tremors, often in the hands
  • a rapid or irregular heart rate
  • trouble sleeping
  • frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • mood swings
  • goiter, or a lump in the throat

People over age 60 tend to experience different symptoms, such as a loss of appetite or withdrawal from others. This may appear similar to depression or dementia.

There are many reasons for someone to feel numbness and tingling, especially in their extremities.

Hypothyroidism is one cause of numbness and tingling. It can also occur when a person remains in one position for too long. Other potential causes include:

  • physical injury or trauma
  • diabetes
  • vascular conditions that result in a decreased oxygen supply to the peripheral nerves
  • autoimmune conditions, such as Sjörgen’s syndrome
  • autoimmune conditions triggered by a recent infection, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • kidney and liver conditions
  • alcohol misuse and abuse
  • vitamin imbalances, such as vitamin B12 deficiency
  • infections, such as:

Learn more about the causes of numbness and tingling.

To diagnose the cause of a person’s numbness and tingling, a doctor will:

  • take a person’s medical history
  • perform a physical examination
  • take note of their symptoms
  • order laboratory tests
  • order imaging tests

To diagnose hyperthyroidism, a doctor will also take a complete medical history and perform a physical exam. During the physical exam, they will feel the thyroid gland located at the base of the throat to feel if it is larger.

They may also order laboratory blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood, including:

  • thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test
  • T3 test, to test the triiodothyronine levels
  • T4 tests, to test the thyroxine levels
  • thyroid antibody tests

If the cause of numbness and tingling is not hyperthyroidism, the treatment depends on the underlying cause.

If the numbness and tingling are a result of hyperthyroidism, anti-thyroid medications to level out a person’s thyroid hormone levels may reduce symptoms.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism includes:

  • medications, such as beta-blockers to reduce symptoms and anti-thyroid medications to level out thyroid hormone levels
  • radioiodine therapy
  • surgery to remove a part of, or all of, the thyroid gland

If hyperthyroidism is the cause of a person’s numbness and tingling, treatment can help to resolve their symptoms. However, the treatment for hyperthyroidism often results in a person developing hypothyroidism.

However, hypothyroidism is easier to treat and results in fewer complications.

People should contact a doctor if they experience any symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, such as:

  • pain, tingling, or a loss of sensation
  • difficulty balancing
  • weakness

They should also contact a doctor if they experience any symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

If people experience any of the following, they should go to a hospital or call 911:

  • inability to move and weakness, along with numbness or tingling
  • numbness or tingling occurs just after a head, neck, or back injury
  • cannot control the movement of an arm or leg
  • have lost bladder or bowel control
  • have lost consciousness, even briefly
  • confusion exists
  • slurred speech
  • a change in vision, problems walking, or weakness

The following are frequently asked questions about numbness, tingling, and hyperthyroidism.

Can thyroid problems or hyperthyroidism cause neuropathy?

Hyperthyroidism rarely causes neuropathy. However, experts have much more widely documented this as a symptom of hypothyroidism.

Can hyperthyroidism affect circulation?

Hyperthyroidism can cause a fast or irregular heart rate.

This can push more blood through the circulatory system, but it can also produce arrhythmias or palpitations in the heart.

Hyperthyroidism can cause high blood pressure.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This can lead to many symptoms, and very rarely, it can lead to numbness and tingling.

Numbness and tingling are symptoms that experts more commonly associate with hypothyroidism.

If numbness and tingling are a result of hyperthyroidism, treatments, such as anti-thyroid medications, can help reduce a person’s symptoms.