You have glands all throughout your body and one of them is the thyroid. This tiny organ shaped like a butterfly is responsible for creating and releasing hormones. You can locate the thyroid at the front of your neck, slightly beneath Adam’s Apple. Being part of the elaborate endocrine system, it is expected to synchronize the activities of the body. One of its main functions is regulating the body’s metabolism.
The most common thyroid disorders arise from either too much or too little production of hormones. These are called hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism respectively. Other known illnesses in the gland are Goiter, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, and thyroid nodules.
Hyperthyroidism Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
An individual can be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism when the thyroid is too active and processes too many hormones. Although this disorder is less frequent in men; it infects about 1% of women.
There are an array of potential causes of hyperthyroidism but Graves’ disease is marked as the primary origin. In fact, it is said to influence about 70% of patients with a hyperactive thyroid. Another reason for this disorder is toxic nodular goiter or multinodular goiter.
Here are a few telltale signs that you may have excessive hormone production:
- restless and feeling irritable
- palpitations characterized by a racing heart
- feeling extreme nervousness
- intensified sweating
- trembling or shivering
- thin skin with fragile hair and nails
- weak muscles
- losing weight
- For people with Grave’s disease, there is noticeable bulging eye
In order to diagnose and treat hyperthyroidism, a blood test is needed to measure the amount of thyroid hormone (T4 or thyroxine) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) present in the blood. TSH is released from the pituitary gland to trigger the thyroid to create hormones. When there is high-level thyroxine paired with low-level TSH, this is a good indication that the thyroid gland is hyperactive.
Since the thyroid needs iodine in order to manufacture its hormones, your doctor may prescribe radioactive iodine to be administered orally or via injection. This procedure is used to assess the amount of iodine your thyroid is capable of taking up. When it consumes an insane level of iodine, this is an absolute indication that the thyroid is overactive. While a low radioactive level can be easily treated and is not considered harmful for a lot of people.
The therapy needed for hyperthyroidism will either ruin the thyroid or it can obstruct the production of hormones.
- Methimazole (Tapazole) and other anti-thyroid drugs are used to block the thyroid from manufacturing more hormones.
- It is advisable to take radioactive iodine as a pill since larger dosages can potentially harm the thyroid gland. Keep in mind that once the thyroid gland absorbs, it will also capture the radioactive iodine. Constantly doing so will impair the gland.
- You can check with your physician if surgery is needed to remove the organ.
After undergoing radioactive iodine treatment or surgery to disrupt the thyroid, there is a chance for hypothyroidism to occur and you may be required to go through daily hormone treatment.
Hypothyroidism Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
The opposite of hyperthyroidism is the underactivity of the thyroid and its incapability to generate hormones. This condition is called hypothyroidism and is often the result of Hashimoto’s Disease or when the thyroid has been damaged by radiation therapy. It may also be caused by surgery performed to take out the thyroid gland. Around 4.6 percent of individuals aged 12 and older have this condition in the United States.
The cases of hypothyroidism are mostly considered to be mild and the following are known to be its symptoms:
- constipation and weight gain
- xerosis or dry skin
- becomes overly sensitive to cold
- bradycardia or slow heart rate
Just like hyperthyroidism, doctors perform a series of blood tests to figure out if an individual has hypothyroidism. These tests are done to evaluate the level of thyroid hormone and TSH. Contrary to hyperthyroidism, in this condition, there is a significantly low level of thyroxine and a higher amount of TSH. The quantity of these two is used to reveal whether the pituitary gland releases more TSH to trigger the thyroid to produce hormones.
Taking thyroid hormone pills is the main medication recommended for hypothyroidism. It’s crucial to get the proper dosage since taking these in larger doses may result in showing symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common source of hypothyroidism in the United States. It is present in 14 million Americans, typically middle-aged women however, it can affect anyone regardless of age. This illness happens when the immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland.
This gradually destroys the thyroid gland and in the process prevents it from creating more hormones. Individuals who are diagnosed with mild Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may not manifest prominent symptoms. Apart from this, there are no specific symptoms but it imitates the symptoms of other conditions.
Some of the symptoms that can signal a Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:
- constipation and mild weight gain
- dry skin and hair
- pale and swollen face
- irregular and heavy menstrual cycle
- hypersensitivity to cold
Like most thyroid disorders the primary step is evaluating the level of TSH and there is a need to conduct blood tests. If your doctor has concluded that you are manifesting symptoms of this disease, he will analyze if there are high levels of TSH and low levels of the thyroid hormone T3 and T4.
Since this is an autoimmune disease, the blood tests can exhibit abnormal antibodies that may be striking the thyroid. Albeit there is still no recognized cure for this illness, most individuals are advised to undergo hormone replacement. This procedure is done to amplify thyroid hormone levels or lower the TSH level. There might be a need to perform surgery in more severe cases of Hashimoto’s. The good thing about this disease, it is normally detected early and becomes stable for years because of its slow advancement.
Graves’ Disease Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Named after the doctor who first published its description in 1848, Graves’ disease is the most common root cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. This is also an autoimmune disease wherein the body erroneously attacks the thyroid. This action leads to the overproduction of hormones responsible for regulating the metabolism.
This illness is hereditary and can be passed on and can evolve regardless of age. It’s usually seen in women whose age ranges from 20 to 30 and it infects 1 in 200 people. It can also affect pregnant women, individuals who have a high risk of stress, and those who are smokers.
Having high levels of hormones in the body may result in speeding up its overall process and in return, will manifest symptoms of Graves’ disease. This may include the following:
- swollen eyes accompanied by vision problems
- amplified or irregular heartbeat
- excessive hand trembling
- extreme sweating
- irregular menstrual cycle
Diagnosing Graves’ disease will still need a regular series of blood tests to analyze high levels of T4 and low levels of TSH which are known indicators of this illness. While a physical examination can disclose an enlarged thyroid, swollen eyes, symptoms of intensified metabolism, high blood pressure, and accelerated pulse.
Furthermore, radioactive iodine uptake is needed to gauge how quickly the thyroid takes up iodine. Consistently, a high iodine uptake is a telltale sign of Graves’ disease. Also, there is no known treatment that can hinder the immune system from attacking the thyroid that results in the overproduction of hormones. Medical professionals will focus on therapies that can alleviate the symptoms often a combination of sorts:
- beta-blockers are prescribed to manage rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety
- radioactive iodine to completely eradicate the thyroid or some parts of it
- antithyroid drugs that will stop the thyroid from creating too many hormones
- for individuals who can’t tolerate the medications nor the radioactive iodine, surgery is the best option
Goiter Symptoms. Diagnosis and Treatment
Goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid gland that is benign or noncancerous. It’s noted that the most usual origin of goiter is iodine deficiency. Researchers learned that out of 800 million, there are 200 million people affected by goiter due to insufficient intake of iodine. Goiter affects anyone regardless of age but it’s common for women who are beyond 40 years old. It’s significantly present in countries where there is an insufficient supply of food with iodine.
Some people are at risk of developing goiter especially pregnant women, taking specific medications, those with exposure to radiation, and individuals who have goiter in their family medical history.
Diagnosing a goiter can be tricky as it’s easily detected when severe. If it becomes too large, it may display the following symptoms:
- labored breathing
- difficulty swallowing
- swelling and stiff neck
- coughing or wheezing
- voice hoarseness
To fully determine if the individual has a goiter, the doctor will feel the neck area and may ask you to swallow during a physical exam. The vital thing is to execute blood tests to establish the level of TSH, thyroid hormone, and antibodies present in the bloodstream. While ultrasound of the thyroid can assess if there are nodules or swelling.
Normally, the treatment of goiter begins when it becomes severe enough to manifest symptoms. If the disorder is caused by iodine deficiency, you are advised to take small doses of iodine. When it is necessary to reduce the thyroid gland, radioactive iodine will be administered while surgery is designed to remove all or some parts of the thyroid.
Goiter can be easily treated and should not bring any worries. However, if neglected this may direct to labored breathing and swallowing problems.
Thyroid nodules Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
A thyroid nodule is an unusual growth that forms on or inside the thyroid gland. It’s common for people living in iodine-sufficient countries. In these areas, there are 1% of men and 5% of women who have nodules that are big enough to feel. While 50% of people have nodules that are too small to be felt. These nodules may either be filled with fluids or solids.
Although its origins may be difficult to pinpoint, it normally includes iodine deficiency and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Most thyroid nodules are benign but there is a small percentage that it can be cancerous.
Generally, thyroid nodules do not exhibit symptoms unless it becomes big enough to cause swelling. Some of the nodules are capable of producing hormones that lead to an imbalance in the bloodstream. In this circumstance the symptoms become highly similar to hyperthyroidism:
- extreme nervousness
- weight loss
- wet or sweaty skin
- increased appetite
- high pulse rate
If the nodules are associated with Hashimoto’s disease the symptoms will be related to hypothyroidism:
- intolerance to cold
- dry skin
- weight gain
- hair loss
Nodules are easily detected during a physical examination but some physicians require an ultrasound, MRI, or a CT scan. After detecting the nodules, a thyroid scan or TSH test can be performed to assess whether there is hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. To find out if the nodule is cancerous, a biopsy will be used to take cell samples.
Non-cancerous nodules do not pose any threat and your doctor may order radioactive iodine if the nodule grows. Cancerous nodules are rare but in case this happens, the treatment will depend on what type of tumors there are. Removing the thyroid via surgery is the usual option and chemotherapy is recommended once cancer spreads in other areas of the body.
Thyroid issues common to children
Like in regular adults with thyroid problems, children are also at risk of developing hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid nodules. They are also bound to experience the same symptoms like the ones listed above with the same treatment or surgery requirements.
One thing that is significantly different though is thyroid cancer, which is one of the most common endocrine cancers found in children. Although it’s very rare, in fact, it’s identified in less than 1 in every 1 million children under 10 years old. This condition is slightly prevalent in teens particularly 15 cases per million for 15 to 19 years old.
Some of the symptoms of thyroid cancer in children comprise of:
- enlarged glands
- hoarse voice
- troubled breathing or strained swallowing
- lump in the neck
- neck tension
How to Prevent Thyroid Dysfunction
You may not be able to fully prevent thyroid diseases but you can manage its complications by getting the correct diagnosis as soon as you see symptoms. It’s also crucial to strictly follow the prescription of your doctor.
If you have an overactive thyroid, you can treat this by taking the correct dose of thyroid hormone. There might be instances where hyperthyroidism is caused by eating too much food that contains iodine like table salt, seaweed, and fish. While individuals who have hypothyroidism are advised to increase their iodine intake.