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Thyroid disorders: Types, Symptoms, Treatment, Causes & Curable

Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

Definition

What are thyroid disorders?

Thyroid disorders are conditions that affect the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid has important roles to regulate numerous metabolic processes throughout the body. Different types of thyroid disorders affect either its structure or function.

The thyroid gland is located below the Adam’s apple wrapped around the trachea (windpipe). A thin area of tissue in the gland’s middle, known as the isthmus, joins the two thyroid lobes on each side. The thyroid uses iodine to produce vital hormones.

Thyroxine, also known as T4, is the primary hormone produced by the gland. After delivery via the bloodstream to the body’s tissues, a small portion of the T4 released from the gland is converted to triiodothyronine (T3), which is the most active hormone.

The function of the thyroid gland is regulated by a feedback mechanism involving the brain. When thyroid hormone levels are low, the hypothalamus in the brain produces a hormone known as thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) that causes the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain) to release thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to release more T4.

Since the thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, disorders of these tissues can also affect thyroid function and cause thyroid problems.

There are specific kinds of thyroid disorders that includes:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Goiter
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Thyroid cancer

How common are thyroid disorders?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of thyroid disorders?

Hypothyroidism:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration or feeling mentally “foggy”
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Feeling cold
  • Fluid retention
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Depression
  • Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding in women

Hyperthyroidism:

  • Tremor
  • Nervousness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Intolerance for heat
  • Increase in bowel movements
  • Increased sweating
  • Concentration problems
  • Unintentional weight loss

Thyroid nodules:

Nodules are lumps or abnormal masses within the thyroid. Nodules may be single or multiple and can vary in size. If nodules are excessively large, they may cause symptoms related to compression of nearby structures.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes thyroid disorders?

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism results from the thyroid gland producing an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone. It can develop from problems within the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus.

Hyperthyroidism describes excessive production of thyroid hormone, a less common condition than hypothyroidism. Some of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism are:

  • Graves’ disease
  • Toxic multinodular goiter
  • Thyroid nodules that overexpress thyroid hormone (known as “hot” nodules)
  • Excessive iodine consumption

Goiter

A goiter is not a specific disease per se. A goiter may be associated with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or normal thyroid function.

Thyroid nodules

Nodules are lumps or abnormal masses within the thyroid. Nodules can be caused by benign cysts, benign tumors, or, less commonly, by cancers of the thyroid.

Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is far more common among adult women than men or youth. About 2/3 of cases occur in people under age 55. There are different kinds of thyroid cancer, depending upon the specific cell type within the thyroid that has become cancerous. Most cases of thyroid cancer have a good prognosis and high survival rates, especially when diagnosed in its early stages.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for thyroid disorders?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are thyroid disorders diagnosed?

In addition to thorough medical history and physical exam, specialized tests are used to diagnose thyroid disorders.

Blood tests are typically done to measure levels of thyroid hormones and TSH. Blood tests to identify antibodies against thyroid tissue may also be ordered by your doctor, such as titers of anti-thyroglobulin, anti-thyroperoxidase, or TSH receptor stimulating antibodies.

Imaging tests are commonly used when thyroid nodules or enlargement are present. Ultrasound can visualize the consistency of the tissue within the gland and can often reveal cysts or calcifications. Ultrasound examination cannot distinguish a benign from a malignant process.

Thyroid scans using radioactive iodine are often performed to evaluate the function of thyroid nodules. The thyroid is the only location in the body that takes up iodine, so when radioactively labeled iodine is given, it is taken up by the thyroid gland. An imaging test typically shows uptake of radioactive iodine by normal thyroid tissue. Areas or nodules that are producing excess hormone (referred to as hyperfunctioning) will show an increased uptake of iodine. These are referred to as “hot” nodules or areas. By contrast, so-called “cold” nodules represent areas with decreased iodine uptake. “Cold” nodules do not produce excess hormone and can sometimes represent cancer.

Fine needle aspiration and biopsy are techniques that remove a sample of cells or tissue from the thyroid gland for examination and diagnosis by a pathologist, who is a physician trained in the diagnosis of conditions based on tissue samples. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) uses a long, thin needle to withdraw a sample of cells from the thyroid. FNA can be performed in the doctor’s office. Sometimes, ultrasound imaging is used to guide the FNA procedure. A biopsy is the surgical sampling of a tissue.

How are thyroid disorders treated?

Thyroid disorders can be treated by medications or, in some cases, surgery. Treatment will depend on the particular disease of the thyroid.

Thyroid medications

Medications can be given to replace the missing thyroid hormone in hypothyroidism. Synthetic thyroid hormone is given in pill form by mouth. When hyperthyroidism is present, medications can be used to decrease production of thyroid hormone or prevent its release from the gland. Other medications can be given to help manage the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as increased heart rate. If hyperthyroidism is not controlled with medications, radioactive ablation can be performed. Ablation involves giving doses of iodine labeled with radioactivity that selectively destroys the thyroid tissue.

Thyroid surgery

Surgery can be used to remove a large goiter or a hyperfunctioning nodule within the gland. Surgery is necessary when there is a possibility of thyroid cancer. If the thyroid gland is removed entirely, the individual will need to take synthetic thyroid hormone for life. Thyroid surgery can also be used in Graves’ Disease (subtotal thyroidectomy) and was the treatment of choice prior to RAI therapy and anti-thyroid medications. It is not used much now.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage health condition?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with health condition:

  • Eating well improves your energy levels, which is important in the face of daytime sleepiness and hypothyroid-related fatigue. Eat small, nutrient dense meals throughout the day to keep your engine revved.
  • Exercising is likely the last thing you feel like doing when your thyroid is sluggish, but getting regular physical activity will boost your energy, help with weight loss efforts, and lower your stress levels.
  • Stress can make thyroid disordersworse, but taking steps to change how you cope with it can make a big difference in how you feel. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or just chilling out to some relaxing music can all help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Getting enough good quality sleep will improve your daytime fatigue. Set and stick to a regular wake and bedtime, keep your bedroom cool, cold and cave-like, and avoid caffeine after 2 PM.
  • Do everything you can to stay healthy. This includes staying up to date with doctor visits and screening tests as well as washing your hands thoroughly before and after you eat, prepare food, or caring for someone who is sick.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

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Sources:

Thyroid Disorders. https://www.medicinenet.com/thyroid_disorders/article.htm. Accessed November 7, 2017.

Understanding Thyroid Problems — the Basics. https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/understanding-thyroid-problems-basics#1. Accessed November 7, 2017.

5 Easy Lifestyle Changes For Living Better With Hypothyroidism. https://healthguides.healthgrades.com/tuning-up-an-underactive-thyroid/5-easy-lifestyle-changes-for-living-better-with-hypothyroidism. Accessed November 7, 2017.

Review Date: November 7, 2017 | Last Modified: November 7, 2017

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