Thyroid Disease 101: Early Diagnosis and Treatment are Key
The thyroid is a small hormone-producing and butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of your neck. It is wrapped around the windpipe, and it is a part of an intricate network of glands known as the endocrine system. It has a significant role to play in the human body. Its primary function is to produce thyroid hormones that help to regulate metabolism and overall body temperature. Your metabolism turns food into energy that allows the body systems to work correctly. It is a small but mighty gland that influences each body area, including heart function, digestive function, muscle control, mood, and brain development.
Thyroid hormones tell the body how much energy to use for the proper regulation of the body’s functions. When working in the proper manner, it maintains the required level of hormones to keep your metabolic rate correct. On the other hand, malfunction of this gland can impact your entire body and cause a number of disorders.
Several risk factors and symptoms of thyroid problems can be treated very well if you seek medical help timely.
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Risk Factors of Thyroid Problems
Estimatingly, about 20 million people suffer from thyroid disease every year. Although thyroid disease can affect everyone, women are 8 times more likely to develop it than men. This condition can develop at birth or as you age. Usually, it is inherited or caused by other medical conditions that influence how your thyroid gland works.
- You are more likely to develop thyroid disease if:
- Your family history has thyroid disease
- You have an underlying medical condition, like anemia, lupus, diabetes, Turner syndrome, or rheumatoid arthritis.
- You have cancer
- You are older than 60, particularly in women
- Your medications are high in iodine
Likewise, type 1 diabetes can also put you at a higher risk of developing thyroid disease.
Types of Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease can range from mild to life-threatening goiters. The two most common thyroid problems include the abnormal production of thyroid hormones, either higher than needed or lower. Both conditions are severe and require immediate medical attention.
These two conditions are termed as:
An overactive thyroid can produce too many hormones, and your body uses energy too quickly. This condition is termed hyperthyroidism. It is dangerous because it can cause a faster heartbeat, and weight loss can occur without even trying. If you do not treat it timely, it can lead to serious heart, bone, and other problems. Hyperthyroidism can also be prompted by other disorders that affect the way the thyroid gland works. For instance, Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disorder connected with eye problems. It is one of the leading causes of hyperthyroidism. Likewise, excessive dosage of iodine and overactive nodules can also cause this condition.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces too few hormones, making your body function on lower energy levels. This condition can cause internal weakness, weight gain, and extreme fatigue. Like hyperthyroidism, it can also be prompted by other disorders. For instance, Hashimoto thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease where cells attack and damage the thyroid. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Non-functioning thyroid at birth, gland inflammation, and iodine deficiency can also cause this condition.
Following are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness or tremors
- Anxiety, irritability, and nervousness
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Irregular menstrual periods or no menstruation cycles altogether
- Vision problems or eye irritation
- Sensitivity to heat
Following are the symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Excessive fatigue
- Weight gain
- Frequent or heavy menstrual period
- A hoarse voice
- Dry or coarse hair, hair loss
- Intolerance of cold temperatures
Early Diagnosis and Treatment
If you have been experiencing any of the signs mentioned above, you need to visit your physician right away. Your doctor will examine your symptoms to diagnose thyroid disease. Initially, they will do a complete family history and physical exam. Then a blood test is conducted to measure the levels of thyroid hormone. It will determine whether there is a problem. Depending on the result of the first test, further tests are given, such as an ultrasound or other imaging tests.
Now, if you have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, treatments will be aimed at blocking from producing excessive hormones. For this, antithyroid drugs are used to prevent the thyroid from making hormones. Moreover, doctors also give a big dose of radioactive iodine in the form of a tablet to disrupt the gland’s performance and stop it from producing excessive hormones. In some extreme cases, surgery is needed to remove the gland altogether.
On the other hand, the primary treatment for hypothyroidism is to take thyroid hormone replacement medication. It will help the gland to produce more hormones and meet the optimal levels.
Although thyroid disease can not be prevented in most of the cases, you can still avoid severe complications commonly caused by it through early diagnosis and following your treatment plan.
If you want more information or an appointment with a professional, you can get it booked with the best endocrinologist through Marham.