The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that is situated near the base of the neck (just below the Adam’s Apple) and is responsible for producing growth and metabolism-controlling hormones. Thyroid diseases, therefore, are disorders or ailments that affect the thyroid gland. If detected and treated early enough, thyroid problems pose little or no problems to the health; but if left untreated, may lead to an enlarged thyroid also known as goiter, among others. Myxedema is a rare, advanced thyroid disease that leads to major health problems including mental instability and usually ends in death.
Types of Thyroid Diseases
There are two main types of thyroid diseases named as a result of the amount of secretions of the thyroid gland. They include:
The other types of thyroid diseases are goiter and cancer of the thyroid.
Hypothyroidism is an abnormal inactiveness of the thyroid. It is a glandular disorder resulting from insufficient production of thyroid hormones. It occurs more in middle-aged women and barely comes with initial symptoms but can pose other health complications if left untreated.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
- Hurting and weak joints
- Difficulty excreting (Constipation)
- Dry and scaly skin
- Rapid weight gain
- Unhealthy, thin hair
- Heavy and abnormal menstruation patterns
- If left untreated or not treated properly, may lead to an enlarged thyroid
In infants and children, some of the symptoms include:
- Inactiveness and immoderate sleepiness
- May lead to intense, stunted mental and physical growths such as dwarfism and cretinism.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
- Hashimoto’s disease – This is an abnormal functioning of the immune system in which the body produces antibodies that attack its tissues. The reason for this production of “negative” antibodies is unknown.
- Hyperthyroidism intervention – In a bid to treat hyperthyroidism with drugs which reduce the amount of secretions by the thyroid gland, the drugs may go overboard and reduce the amount of secretions beyond normal, thereby causing hypothyroidism.
- Removal of all or a huge part of the thyroid gland
- Exposure to immoderate quantities of some medications such as lithium
- Iodine insufficiency
Aside these causes, some contributory factors such as anatomy (being male or female) and genetics are some of the risk factors in contracting thyroid diseases. It is important to diagnose and treat thyroid disease properly to avoid the complications that arise from untreated hypothyroidism. Some of these complications include myxedema, mental and physical ill-health, sterility and congenital anomaly.
Hyperthyroidism is an abnormal over activeness of the thyroid in which thyroid hormones (thyroxin) are excessively produced.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
- Rapid weight loss with multiplied appetite
- Involuntary shudder
- Abnormally rapid heartbeats
- Constant perspiration caused by a heightened reaction to heat
- Pale skin
- Menstrual irregularities
Causes of Hyperthyroidism
- Graves’ disease: This is an abnormal functioning of the immune system which causes the thyroid gland to produce more hormones than is necessary. The reason for this is unknown. It is more common in women and it is largely genetic. Smoking is a contributory factor and Graves’ disease is characterized by large, bulgy eyes.
- Exposure to immoderate amounts of some medications: Medications such as iodine, amiodarone and an overdose of drugs that balance the secretions of the thyroid hormones contribute to hyperthyroidism.
- Thyroiditis: This is an inflammation of the thyroid gland usually caused by virus. Its symptoms include sore throat and pain in the throat and neck region.
- Thyroid nodules: These are non-cancerous, painless lumps (nodules) which grow in the thyroid gland and affect the regular functioning of the gland, causing an overactive thyroid. The reason why these nodules develop is unknown but researches show that it may be genetic.
- Cancer of the thyroid: Like hypothyroidism, anatomy and genetics are contributory factors in contracting the disease. Stiff, brittle bones, heart issues, sight and skin problems are some of the complications that may develop if hyperthyroidism isn’t treated properly and early enough.
Diagnosis of Thyroid Diseases
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism may be diagnosed by close, physical examination and by blood tests. The physical examination involves a specialist doctor who asks questions and takes note of body reactions such as tremor, fatigue etc. and evaluates results based on them. Hypothyroidism can also be treated naturally but ensure you have a specialist to guide you.
Treatment of Thyroid Diseases
For hypothyroidism, drugs such as Levothyroxine are administered to help increase and control the rate of secretions to normalcy. These drugs work as synthetic thyroid hormones, and routine tests are required to know the dosage of the drugs.
For hyperthyroidism, drugs to reduce tachycardia are prescribed as well as anti-thyroid drugs to reduce the activity of the gland. Also, surgeries may be done to remove all or part of the thyroid gland and the eye muscles.