Thyroid – Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis & Treatment
What is a Thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland that makes hormones that help control many vital functions of the body. The thyroid is not a disease But, when the thyroid doesn't work properly, it can impact the entire body and can cause disease. Various problems associated with thyroid are:
- * Goiter - enlargement of the thyroid gland
- * Hyperthyroidism - when your thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormones than your body needs
- * Hypothyroidism - when your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones
- * Thyroid cancer
- * Thyroid nodules - lumps in the thyroid gland
- * Thyroiditis - swelling of the thyroid
Out of all these hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are the most common and main types of diseases. According to various studies on thyroid disease, it has been estimated that in India about 42 million people suffer from thyroid diseases. A woman is about five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with a thyroid condition than a man but this doesn’t mean men can’t have it.
Conditions that can cause Hypothyroidism :
- * Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: It is a painless disease and an autoimmune condition where the body’s cells attack and damage the thyroid. This is the most common cause.
- * Iodine deficiency
- * Various medications like lithium, amiodarone, cancer medication
- * Postpartum thyroiditis: This condition occurs in 5% to 9% of women after childbirth. It’s usually a temporary condition.
Conditions that can cause hyperthyroidism include:
- * Graves’ disease: In this condition, the entire thyroid gland might be overactive and produce too much hormone (enlarged thyroid gland).
- * Nodules: Hyperthyroidism can occur by overactive nodules within the thyroid.
- * Thyroiditis: It can be either painful or not felt at all. In this kind of disorder, the thyroid releases hormones that were stored there. This can last for a few weeks or months.
- * Excessive iodine: When you have too much iodine in your body, the thyroid makes more thyroid hormones than it needs. Excessive iodine can be found in some medications like amiodarone which is a heart medication and cough syrups.
You may be at a higher risk of developing thyroid disease if you:
- * Have a family history of thyroid disease.
- * Have a medical condition. These can include anemia, type 1 diabetes, primary adrenal insufficiency(when your adrenal glands are damaged), lupus(when your body's immune system attacks your tissues and organs), rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome(a disorder that causes insufficient moisture production in certain glands of the body) and Turner syndrome(a genetic disorder affecting girls and women).
- * Take a medication that’s high in iodine.
- * Are older than 60, especially in women.
- * Have had treatment for a past thyroid condition or cancer
Symptoms:There are a variety of symptoms that you could experience if you have a thyroid disease.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can include:
- * Feeling anxiety, irritability, and nervousness.
- * Facing trouble in sleeping.
- * Losing weight.
- An enlarged thyroid gland or a goiter.
- Muscle weakness.
- Going through irregular menstrual periods or having your menstrual cycle stop.
- Feeling sensitive to heat.
- Having vision problems or eye irritation.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid(hypothyroidism) can include:
- * Feeling tired (fatigue).
- * Gaining weight.
- * Experiencing forgetfulness.
- * Frequent and heavy menstrual periods.
- * Dry and coarse hair.
- * A hoarse voice(condition when the voice involuntarily sounds breathy, changes in pitch and volume).
- * Facing an intolerance to cold temperatures
Thyroid disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are easily confused with those of other conditions. Some tests can help determine if your symptoms are being caused by a thyroid issue. These tests include:
- * Blood Test: Thyroid blood tests are used to tell if your thyroid gland is functioning properly by measuring the number of thyroid hormones in your blood. These tests can be done by taking blood sample from a vein in your arm.
- * Imaging Test: In this test, a thyroid scan or ultrasound is done to look at your thyroid to check for increased size, shape, or growths
- * Physical Exams: This is a very simple and painless test in which the doctor feels for any growth or enlargement of the thyroid.
The main aim of treatment is to return your thyroid hormone levels to normal. This can be done in a variety of ways:
If you have high levels of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism), treatment options can include :
- * Anti-thyroid drugs (methimazole and propylthiouracil): These are medications that stop your thyroid from making hormones.
- * Radioactive iodine: This medication damages the cells of thyroid, stopping it from making high levels of thyroid hormones.
- * Beta-blockers: These medications don’t change the number of hormones in your body, but they help to control your symptoms.
- * Surgery: A more permanent form of treatment, is to surgically remove your thyroid (thyroidectomy). This will stop it from creating hormones. However, after this treatment, you will need to take thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of your life.
If you have low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), the main treatment option is:
- * Thyroid replacement medication: This drug is a man-made way to add thyroid hormones back into the body. One drug that is commonly used is called levothyroxine. By using this medication, you can control thyroid disease and live a normal and healthy life.
Dr. Abhilasha Jain,