Lupus is a long-term autoimmune condition that leads to inflammation of various organs in the body. It may also affect the thyroid, leading to hyperthyroidism.

A person can have lupus and hyperthyroidism at the same time.

This article explores the connection between lupus and hyperthyroidism, including symptoms, treatment, and when to contact a doctor.

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According to the Johns Hopkins Lupus Center, thyroid conditions are common in people with lupus. Different types of thyroid diseases may occur alongside lupus.

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid overproduces thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid produces too few thyroid hormones.

According to research, hypothyroidism is the most common form of thyroid disease in people with lupus. It occurs in 15–19% of people with lupus.

The prevalence of hyperthyroidism in people with lupus is much lower than hypothyroidism in people with lupus. Hyperthyroidism also coexists in people with lupus at higher rates than it does in the general population.

The rate of hyperthyroidism in the general population is about 1.3%. In people with lupus, the prevalence of hyperthyroidism ranges from 3–9%. This suggests a link exists between hyperthyroidism and lupus. This link may exist for a few reasons.


According to 2012 research, polyautoimmunity is the presence of more than one autoimmune disease in the same person. Some autoimmune forms of thyroid disease may present with symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Researchers found that compared with study participants who did not have lupus, the rate of thyroid diseases, including hyperthyroidism, is higher in people with lupus.

Additional research also shows a higher prevalence of antithyroid antibodies and thyroid disease in people with systemic lupus erythematosus than in the general population.

Graves’ disease

Graves’ disease involves overproduction of thyroid hormones, resulting in symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Similar to lupus, Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease. It occurs due to the production of specific antibodies that attach to thyroid-stimulating hormone receptors.

Research indicates a link between Graves’ disease and systemic autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis involves a decrease in thyroid cells, which produce and secrete thyroid hormones. Eventually, this loss causes a change in thyroid function. Although Hashimoto’s typically causes hypothyroidism, it can occasionally cause hyperthyroidism.

Hashimoto’s disease occurs more often in people with lupus and other autoimmune disorders.


Medication to treat lupus does not typically lead to thyroid disease.

However, researchers found that the thyroid medications propylthiouracil and methimazole can cause side effects that mimic symptoms of lupus.


Genetics may also play a role in a person developing lupus, hyperthyroidism, and having both occur at the same time.

Research indicates that a genetic association between thyroid disease and lupus exists. People who carry a specific gene that encodes a T cell protein have an increased risk of developing lupus and thyroid disease at the same time.

Since lupus and hyperthyroidism can have symptoms that overlap, someone with lupus may not initially know they have thyroid disease.

According to the American Thyroid Association, symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:

Lupus can cause some similar symptoms, such as hair loss and skin rashes. Lupus can also lead to many other symptoms, depending on the organs involved.

Having both lupus and hyperthyroidism can increase a person’s risk of developing severe symptoms. For example, research indicates that people with thyroid disease and lupus have an elevated risk of serious complications, including central nervous system and kidney involvement.

Healthcare professionals diagnose lupus through a review of symptoms and additional diagnostic tests. One test they may perform, the antinuclear antibody test, detects the presence of lupus autoantibodies that the immune system makes. Tests for antinuclear antibodies are typically positive for people with lupus.

Doctors may diagnose hyperthyroidism using a blood test. With the blood test, healthcare professionals measure the levels of thyroid hormones, including thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and thyroid-stimulating hormones. Higher levels of thyroid hormones and low levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones may indicate hyperthyroidism.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism is the same for people with or without lupus. Doctors may prescribe medication that manages the overproduction of thyroid hormones. They may also recommend a person has surgery.

Healthcare professionals often prefer to prescribe methimazole over other thyroid medications due to a lower risk of side effects. In some cases, medications can lead to the remission of thyroid disease.

Thyroid medications manage or treat hyperthyroidism. However, they do not treat lupus. An individual with lupus will typically need to take additional medications.

Treatment for lupus may include various medications, including the following:

  • Corticosteroids: These help decrease pain and swelling.
  • Antimalarial drugs: These treat lung inflammation and reduce skin rashes, joint pain, and fatigue. A person may find that antimalarial medications help stop flare-ups of lupus.
  • BLyS-specific inhibitors: This type of medication reduces certain cells in the immune system that create antibodies common in people with lupus.
  • Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: These medications help to treat mild pain and swelling in the muscles and joints.

If a person has symptoms of lupus or hyperthyroidism, they should contact a doctor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of lupus include:

A relationship exists between lupus and thyroid disease, including hyperthyroidism. People with one type of autoimmune disease are at a higher risk of developing another autoimmune disease.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can develop as a result of an autoimmune disease, such as Graves’ disease. Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism and lupus are similar, which is why a person should talk with a doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.