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Thyroid disorders

Thyroid, a pear-shaped gland located just below your neck does many things within your body than you ever knew it does. It can regulate your energy levels, control your weight, makes you mood swing, etc. It regulates how your body interacts with other organs within it. The thyroid gland influences almost all the metabolic processes in the body.

So, unfortunately, for about 10 million women across the globe, this regulator is on the fritz. So what actually goes wrong??

The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones which are nearly used by every cell in the body. For the normal functioning of the body, the gland should secrete hormones is specific amounts. The thyroid disorders are characterized by the abnormal levels of thyroid hormones.

The 4 common thyroid disorders are:

  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Graves’s disease
  • Goiter
  • Thyroid nodules

In this article, we will discuss in detail about each of these disorders.

HASHIMOTO’S DISEASE:

Hashimoto’s disease is commonly known as chronic lymphatic thyroiditis. It is caused by hypothyroidism which is a condition that occurs due to an insufficient amount of thyroid hormones in the body. It can occur in people of any age but is most commonly cited in women of middle-age. This condition becomes noticeable when the body’s thyroid gland is mistakenly attacked by the immune system and it slowly destroys the thyroid gland and also adversely affects its ability to produce hormones which help in the metabolism of the body.

In the initial stages of the disorders, the symptoms are very mild and are often unnoticed. The disease can remain stable for years and the symptoms are often subtle. Often, there are no obvious symptoms or at times the symptoms are not very specific. This means they mimic the symptoms of other diseases or disorders and is very difficult to distinguish the rising of this new disease in the body. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Mild weight gain
  • Dry or thinning hair
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Enlarged thyroid
  • Intolerance to cold

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT OF HASHIMOTO’S DISEASE:

The very first step when screening for any type of thyroid disorder is to test the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Your doctor will ask you to take up a blood test to check the increased levels of TSH or to check for the low levels of thyroid hormones that are T3 or T4.

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder, so the blood test might show abnormal antibodies that might be attacking the thyroid. There is no cure for the Hashimoto’s diseases. The only way to get relief is to keep the hormone levels under control.  There are special medications that help in raising or lowering the levels of thyroid stimulating hormones. These medications are called as hormone-replacing medicines. These medicines also help relieve the symptoms of the disease.

In advanced cases of Hashimoto’s diseases, either a part or whole of the thyroid gland has to be removed. Surgery may be needed to remove a part or whole of the affected thyroid gland. Even if the disease is detected at an early stage there is no known cure for the disease. This is because the disease remains stable for years and progresses very slowly.

GRAVE’S DISEASE:

Grave’s disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism which is a condition that occurs due to excessive production of thyroid hormones. This disease is named after a doctor who has been describing it for more than 150 years. It is an autoimmune disorder, so the blood test might show abnormal antibodies that might be attacking the thyroid.

This disease is hereditary and can occur at any age in both men & women. Most commonly it is seen in women between 20 to 30 years of age. Other risk factors which can possibly result in this disease include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism

When there is a high level of thyroid hormones in the blood stream the body’s system speeds up. This can cause certain symptoms which are common to hyperthyroidism. Those symptoms include:

  • ¨ Anxiety
  • ¨ Irritability
  • ¨ Fatigue
  • ¨ Excessive sweating
  • ¨ Difficulty in breathing
  • ¨ Increased or irregular heartbeat
  • ¨ Difficulty in sleeping
  • ¨ Diarrhea
  • ¨ Frequent bowel movements
  • ¨ Irregular menstrual cycle
  • ¨ Enlarged thyroid
  • ¨ Bulging eyes
  • ¨ Other vision problems

DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT FOR GRAVE’S DISEASE:

A simple physical examination is more than enough to detect the symptoms related to hyperthyroidism. It helps to identify enlarged thyroids, enlarged bulging eyes, rapid pulse and high blood pressure. ) Your doctor will ask you to take up a blood test to check the increased levels of TSH or to check for the low levels of thyroid hormones that are T3 or T4. You may also be asked to take up radioactive iodine to administer the measure of how quickly the thyroid absorbs iodine. A high intake of iodine is needed in case of grave’s disease.

There is no treatment to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid gland. However, the symptoms of grave’s disease can be controlled in a number of ways often with a combination of treatment. Some of the ways to control the symptoms are listed below:

  • Beta-blockers are used to control rapid heartbeat, anxiety, and sweating
  • Anti-thyroid medications to prevent thyroid gland from producing large amounts of thyroid hormones
  • Radioactive iodine to destroy parts or whole of the thyroid

For patients who cannot tolerate anti-thyroid drugs or radioactive iodine will have only one last option which is to go in for a surgery. A surgery is often done to remove the thyroid gland. Successful hyperthyroidism treatments may lead to hypothyroidism. In such cases, you will have to take hormone replacement medications to move on with your life.  Grave’s disease if left untreated may lead to major heart problems and even brittle bones.

GOITER

Goiter is the noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland. The most common cause of goiter is iodine deficiency in the diet. Goiter is often caused or in many cases is the symptom of hyperthyroidism. Goiter can occur in people of any age group especially in areas where food rich in iodine are in shortage. This is because iodized food provides plenty of iodine in the diet. Women above 40 years of age are more vulnerable to thyroid problems and suffer from thyroid disorders. Other risk factors which can lead to thyroid include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Family medical history
  • Certain medications
  • Radiation exposure

As in other thyroid disorders, there will not be any symptoms in the initial stages of goiter. However, there will be some noticeable symptoms if goiter gets into a severe level. Some of the symptoms are listed below:

  • Selling in the neck
  • Tightness around the neck area
  • Continuous Coughing or wheezing
  • Hoarseness of the voice

DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT OF GOITER

A physical examination is carried out to diagnose and treat goiter. Your doctor will ask you to take up a blood test to check the increased levels of TSH or to check for the low levels of thyroid hormones that are T3 or T4. This will check for thyroid disorders that are often a cause of goiter. An ultrasound of the thyroid may be carried out to check for swelling or nodules.

Goiter, even if detected in the early stage cannot be treated unless and until the condition becomes severe and the symptoms begin to shoot up. Usually, you will be asked to take small doses of iodine if iodine deficiency is the cause of goiter. Radioactive iodine may be taken in required amounts to shrinking the thyroid glands.

The treatments for all kinds of thyroid disorders usually overlap as goiter is often a symptom of hyperthyroidism. Goiter, if left untreated can cause severe complications. These complications may include difficulty in breathing and swallowing which might even turn up to be life-threatening.

THYROID NODULES

Thyroid nodules are growths that are formed on or inside of the thyroid gland. The causes for the formation of these nodules are not always known but are assumed to be a result of iodine deficiency or Hashimoto’s disease. These nodules can be solid or fluid-filled and may be cancerous in very rare cases. Like other thyroid disorders, nodules are more common in women than in men and affect both sexes at equal chances above 40 years of age.

As in other thyroid disorders, there will not be any symptoms in the initial stages of nodules. However, there will be some noticeable symptoms if nodules grow bigger. Some of the symptoms are listed below:

  • Swelling in neck
  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Severe pain
  • Goiter

Some nodules will begin producing thyroid hormones which will drastically increase the number of hormones in the blood stream. When this happens, the condition becomes similar to that of hyperthyroidism. Some of the noticeable symptoms include:

  • High pulse rate
  • Nervousness
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Clammy skin
  • Tremors

If the nodules are associated with Hashimoto’s diseases then the symptoms are similar to hyperthyroidism. That includes:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Mild weight gain
  • Dry or thinning hair
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Enlarged thyroid
  • Intolerance to cold

DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT OF THYROID NODULES

Most nodules can be detected during a physical examination. Some can be detected during a CT-Scan, or MRI scan. Once the nodules are detected, then the procedure is to check for the production of hormones. A fine needle is used to take a sample of cells from the nodules to see if the nodule is cancerous. Cancerous nodules are very rare and thyroid cancers aren’t very common. Removing the thyroid through surgery is the only treatment of choice. Sometimes a radiation therapy is used instead of a surgery. Chemotherapy may be required if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

Make sure to discuss the diagnoses and treatment options with your doctor or ask a doctor at free doctor helpline.

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