The thyroid is an endocrine gland that produces hormones which govern many activities in the body such as calorie burning and energy consumption, the body’s use of vitamins, the growth of body tissues and heartbeat regulation.
Different types of thyroid disorders
There are certain kinds of disorders associated with the thyroid gland, which include:
- Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland.
- Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland.
- Thyroid Nodules
- Thyroid cancer
With hypothyroidism, symptoms include feeling “foggy” or having a poor mental condition, fluid retention, feeling cold, muscle and joint aches, and depression. An aversion to heat, increased perspiration, increased heart rate, and nervousness, however, are symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Goitre simply refers to a swelling of the gland as a result of hyper or hypothyroidism. Thyroid nodules are masses or anomalies that occur within the thyroid gland, can be multiple in number and vary in size. They can also be indicative of thyroid cancer, which is common in women more than men. However, thyroid cancer has been known to have a good survival rate, especially when caught in the early stages. In each case, the best way to determine and diagnose the same is with a thyroid test.
Causes of thyroid problems
There are a number of reasons for the occurrence of the different types of thyroid problems. These are:
- Hypothyroidism: Loss of thyroid tissue due to surgical procedures, antithyroid antibodies in diabetic patients, congenital defects that occur from birth, and even from medication such as lithium.
- Hyperthyroidism: Abnormal stimulation of the thyroid gland by the TSI or Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobin, toxic multinodular goitre, subacute thyroiditis, pituitary adenoma, or from the heart medication amiodarone.
- Thyroid Nodules: These are caused either by external radiation exposure or from iodine deficiency.
- Thyroid Cancer: There are several types, the most common being papillary thyroid carcinoma, caused by radiation exposure which can occur during chemotherapy.
Dealing with thyroid disorders
The most important thing to remember when dealing with thyroid ailments is to get a test done to assess thyroid hormone levels and TSH. There are different types of tests to help determine the underlying thyroid issue:
- A thyroid blood test such as a titer of anti-thyroglobulin, TSH receptor antibody test, or the anti-thyroperoxidase test.
- Imaging tests are used when nodules are present in the gland. Since the thyroid is the only gland that uses iodine in the body, thyroid scans using radioactive iodine are used to evaluate it in such a case.
- FNA, or Fine Needle Aspiration is a technique of removal of tissues for examination by a pathologist who diagnoses the gland based on the sample.
Treatment and care
In most cases, following a blood sugar test, or any of the above tests, thyroid disorders can be treated with medication and, in extreme cases, through surgery. Hypothyroidism is treated with a synthetic thyroid hormone administered orally, which replaces the missing thyroid hormone. In the case of hyperthyroidism, medication can decrease the production of the hormone or prevent its production altogether.
Surgery is an option when the patient is diagnosed with thyroid nodules or papillary thyroid carcinoma, where the gland is either sectioned in half or removed altogether. Patients who have half their gland removed can still function normally. In cases where it is removed completely, they will have to resort to synthetic thyroid hormones for the remainder of their life.