Thyroid dysfunction is one of the most common health disorder that affects a large population today. Anybody can fall prey to thyroid disorders; however, it is most common in women. According to several studies women are 5 to 8 times more to have thyroid problems than men. Thyroid is really common health problem that plagues the population. In fact, about 12% of people are likely to experience thyroid disorder at some point during their lives.
What Is Thyroid?
Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped small endocrine gland which rests in front of the windpipe (called the trachea) and just below the larynx or Adam’s apple in the neck. The thyroid gland releases hormones which is released in the blood and is further transferred to every tissue of the body. The thyroid gland releases two major hormones; T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine) which are controlled by TSH(thyroid stimulating hormone).
Thyroid hormones affect the way every organ in our body functions even our heart. It controls several vital bodily functions like; controlling the metabolism rate. It also controls the protein synthesis which affects the growth and development. Thyroid hormones have several affects on the body.
A properly functioning thyroid will balance the right amount of hormones required to keep the body’s metabolism functioning at a satisfactory rate. Problem arises when the hormone levels are too high (hyperthyroidism) or low (hypothyroidism). Let us try to understand various thyroid disorders:
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones (thyroxine) to meet the needs of the body. One can say that the thyroid is underactive. The following condition causes hypothyroidism:
- Thyroiditis is an inflammation of thyroid gland. This disorder can lower the amount of hormones produced
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that damages the thyroid gland
- Postpartum thyroiditis is inflammation of the thyroid gland which occurs in a women after giving birth
- Iodine deficiency can also lead to enlargement of thyroid which can cause hypothyroidism
- An inoperative thyroid gland affects one is 4000 new born babies. If it is not corrected then the child will be mentally and physically retarded. Screening of blood test in the hospital is done to evaluate thyroid function.
The most common symptoms that identify with hypothyroidism are:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Puffy face, weight gain
- Muscle weakness, muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Pain, swelling in the joints
- Depression, impaired memory
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Frequent, heavy menstrual period
Hyperthyroidism is a thyroid condition where the thyroid gland produces too much of thyroxine hormone. Some major conditions that cause hyperthyroidism are
- Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder that causes hyperthyroidism, with this disease the immune system attacks the thyroid which results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones. This problem is also called diffuse toxic goiter(enlarged thyroid gland).
- Toxic multinodular goitre also known as Plummer’s disease. This is a known cause of hyperthyroidism that produces excess of thyroid hormones from functionally self-directed thyroid nodules. These do not need stimulation from thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
- Excessive Iodine intake is considered to be associated with hyperthyroidism.
The common symptoms of Hyperthyroidism are:
- Excessive sweating
- Fatigue, weakness
- Heat intolerance
- Sudden paralysis
- Insomnia (difficulty in sleeping)
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Irregular heartbeat, palpitation, increase in heart rate
Goitre is a thyroid dysfunction which causes abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. Small goitres generally don’t cause physical pain but large goitre can make it hard to breathe and swallow.
The causes for goitres are as follows:
- Iodine deficiency – deficiency of iodine is one of the major cause of goitre
- Pregnancy– A hormone named human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is produced during pregnancy also cause the thyroid gland to enlarge slightly
- Hypothyroidism as well as hyperthyroidism conditions are also responsible
- Multinodular Goitre– It is a condition where the nodules i.e. Several solid or fluid filled lumps develop on the both sides of the thyroid gland which results in enlargement of the gland
Symptoms of Goitre
- A visible lump or swelling in the neck.
- A tight feeling in the throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Difficulty is breathing
- Weight gain
If one identifies with the above given symptoms it is extremely important to get tested for thyroid function tests. The major tests include:
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Test
- Total T4/Total Thyroxine
- Total T3/Total Triiodothyronine
- Thyroglobulin/Thyroid Binding Globulin/TBG
- Antithyroid Peroxidase Antibodies/ Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
- Antithyroglobulin Antibodies/ Thyroglobulin Antibodies
- Thyroid Receptor Antibodies (TRAb)
- Thyroid-Stimulating Immunoglobulins (TSI)
Various Imaging tests are also performed to aid in diagnosis of thyroid condition such as:
- Radioactive Iodine Uptake/ Nuclear scan
- CT Scan
- MRI/Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Thyroid Ultrasound
Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is used to help assess the suspicious thyroid lumps and nodules. In this biopsy a thin needle is directly inserted into the nodule and some cells are withdrawn to check for cancer.
Other tests include:
- Iodine Patch Tests
- Urinary Testing
- Saliva Testing
- Basal Body Temperature Testing
- Strong iodine
- Radioactive iodine therapy
It is always better to take the condition in your hand and try to adopt several healthier management steps. These management steps are really helpful in long term management and controlling of thyroid disorders. It is highly advised to make these steps a very part of your daily life and thyroid management plan:
- Eat healthy meals. A person suffering from hypothyroidism must avoid the intake of cabbage, cauliflower, soy products.
- Do not skip any meals. Instead have small and regular meals at regular intervals.
- Make sure to make exercise a part of the regular regime
- It is important to take proper medication on time
- One should also make sure to go for regular thyroid tests to properly manage the thyroid levels
- It is important not to skip your doctor appointments and go for regular consultation