The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck just below Adam’s apple (larynx) and shaped like a butterfly. The thyroid gland consists of two lobes located on either side of the windpipe (trachea). The thyroid’s main role in the endocrine system is to regulate your metabolism and break down food to convert it to energy. Moreover, this food essentially fuels the body, and each of our bodies uses that fuel at different rates.
To begin “you often hear about some people having a “fast” metabolism and others having a “slow” metabolism”. However, there are several disorders associated with the thyroid gland with most problems concerning the production of thyroid hormones. Either the thyroid gland produces too much hormone (called hyperthyroidism). The other case can be if the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone (called hypothyroidism). This results in your body using energy faster or slower than it should.
To begin, Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to produce hormones. Its deficiency can cause hypothyroidism. When the thyroid gland does not produce enough T4 hormone it is called Hypothyroidism. However, when too much thyroid hormone is produced is called Hyperthyroidism. The most prevalent form is Graves’ disease in which the body’s autoimmune response causes the thyroid gland to produce too much T3 and T4.
Aside from family history, there are several other risk factors for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism like gender and pregnancy. Moreover, there are also certain lifestyle factors that increase the risk of thyroid disorders. They include:
- Psychological stress
- Injury or trauma to the thyroid
- History of certain medication use in high amounts, such as lithium and iodine
While general categories of thyroid disease symptoms—sleep changes, weight changes, bowel problems, for example—can overlap, exactly how these manifest is quite different from condition to condition.
- Swelling and lumps can occur within the thyroid gland. Such nodules can be harmless, but some can cause the production of hormones or even be cancerous.
- Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include weight loss, high blood pressure, diarrhea, and a rapid heartbeat. People with hyperthyroidism are often sensitive to heat, hyperactive, and eat excessively. Goiter is sometimes a side effect of hyperthyroidism.
- If you have hypothyroidism as an adult, you may experience sensitivity to cold, little appetite, and overall sluggishness.
- Older patients may experience arrhythmias, heart failure, and mental confusion. If left untreated, patients can suffer from a “thyroid storm”. In this condition, you can have high blood pressure, heart failure, and fever which can lead to a critical situation requiring urgent medical care.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To begin, symptoms often prompt patients to visit the doctor. These include fatigue, the inability to get pregnant, changes in the skin or hair, a lump in the neck, hoarseness, or pain in the thyroid area. In addition to this, if you visit a doctor, they will likely perform a physical exam to determine whether the thyroid is enlarged. In addition to this, they will order blood tests to measure thyroid hormone levels too.
The treatment for patients with overactive thyroid depends on how severe the symptoms are and what the underlying cause is. You and your doctor will discuss which of the options is best for you. Moreover, therapy for disorders that cause hyperthyroidism may involve radioactive iodine to destroy part of or the entire thyroid gland to stop excess production. Other methods include anti-thyroid drugs or surgery to remove the thyroid. Treatment for all types and causes of hypothyroidism is usually straightforward and involves thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Moreover, you can live without your thyroid, but you need to take medicine daily to substitute the hormones produced by your thyroid gland.
If you have any of the conditions that put you at high risk for thyroid disease, you should have your thyroid checked by your doctor after regular intervals. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are having any symptoms. There are many risk factors and causes of thyroid disease. However, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in thyroid disease. Regency Hospital provides state of the art care for patients with thyroid abnormalities.