Why Did My Thyroid Gland Stop Working And Die
Dr. Chris Heimlich DC, DACNB, ScottsdaleThyroid Doctor Comments:I just had another patient come in and ask me this? People all across the country are being told on a daily basis that their thyroid gland just died or stopped working. Some patients just accept this without question. Others ask how this could happen.
The usual response by their doctor is that it is just something that happens. Almost as if the thyroid gland was a light switch that could just be turned off.
Thyroid glands do not just stop working and die for no apparent reason. It is usually a slow process that takes years until one day you go to your doctor continuing to complain of thyroid symptoms and they run a TSH and you get the bad news.
It is well published that the number one cause for thyroid dysfunction is an auto immune disease called Hashimotos Thyroiditis. This means that the body has lost self tolerance.
It attacks healthy thyroid tissue and destroys it as if it was a foreign invader. This destruction leads to less and less of healthy thyroid tissue leading to less release of the needed hormones. It is estimated that 85-95% of all people with hypothyroidism have Hashimotos Thyroiditis.
The standard medical treatment is to give hormone replacement until the thyroid gland dies or burns out and then keep the patient on thyroid meds because they no longer are able to produce their own.
There are few flaws to that type of treatment.
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What Causes An Overactive Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is found in the neck. It produces hormones that are released into the bloodstream to control the bodys growth and metabolism. These hormones are called thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
They affect processes such as heart rate and body temperature, and help convert food into energy to keep the body going.
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine or triiodothyronine, which speeds up the bodys metabolism.
There are several possible underlying causes, the most common being Graves disease, in which the bodys immune system targets the thyroid gland and causes it to produce too much of the thyroid hormones.
What Causes Thyroid Cancer
In most cases, the cause of thyroid cancer is unknown. However, certain things can increase your chances of developing the condition.
Risk factors for thyroid cancer include:
- having a benign thyroid condition
- having a family history of thyroid cancer
- having a bowel condition known as familial adenomatous polyposis
- acromegaly a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone
- having a previous benign breast condition
- weight and height
Read more about the causes of thyroid cancer
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Eye Disease
Early symptoms of thyroid eye disease are itching, watering or dry eyes and a feeling of grittiness of the eyes. Some people may notice a swelling around the eyelids and sometimes the front of the eye becomes swollen. The eyelids may become uneven in size and they may seem to sit further back on the eyeballs . Patients may experience prominent or protruding eyes , and in more advanced cases, double vision.Rarely, patients may not be able to completely close their eyes due to protrusion of the eyeball. This exposes the cornea to damage from dirt, causing reduced vision. Sometimes the swelling at the back of the eyes can press on the nerve behind the eye causing pain, washed out colour vision and reduced vision which, if untreated, can lead to blindness.
How Is Hashimotos Disease Diagnosed
First, your healthcare provider will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. He or she will feel your thyroid gland to determine if it is enlarged. Blood tests are also ordered. These include:
- Thyroid stimulating hormone test: A high TSH level most commonly means the thyroid gland is not producing enough T4 hormone. This lab is usually most consistent with a diagnosis of hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism.
- Free T4 test: A low T4 level suggests that the person has hypothyroidism.
- Antithyroid antibody test: Presence of antibodies indicates a higher risk of developing Hashimotos hypothyroidism.
The most common imaging test that may be ordered is an ultrasound of your thyroid gland. The ultrasound shows the size and appearance of the thyroid and if there are any nodules or growths in your neck area.
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Thyroid Hormone Use May Raise Death Risk In Older Adults
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy in older adults is associated with a higher risk of death compared with no treatment, a large study finds. The study results were accepted for presentation at ENDO 2020, the Endocrine Societys annual meeting, and publication in a special supplemental section of the Journal of the Endocrine Society.
When people have too little thyroid hormone, called hypothyroidism, they usually require lifelong treatment with levothyroxine to supplement the bodys thyroid hormone, thyroxine . Some people have subclinical hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland needs more stimulation to produce adequate thyroid hormone levels. These individuals will have modest elevations in thyroid-stimulating hormone , which stimulates thyroid hormone production.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is a mild or early form of thyroid disease, and these patients also routinely receive thyroid hormone replacement, said the studys principal investigator, Jennifer Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. However, Mammen notes that this interpretation of high TSH with normal T4 levels may not be correct in all older adults.
Mammen also recommended repeating testing after finding an isolated elevation of TSH in older adults, because levels can fluctuate. We advocate being cautious and conservative when considering thyroid hormone treatment, she said.
About Endocrine Society
Is There A Special Diet For People With Hashimotos Disease
There is no special diet for Hashimotos disease, but some foods, medicines or supplements may affect your ability to absorb levothyroxine, your thyroid medication. These include iron and calcium supplements, the ulcer medicine sucralfate, cholestyramine and aluminum hydroxide . Taking these four hours before or after the levothyroxine may solve this problem.
Talk to your doctor about any dietary questions you have.
Eating well and a healthy lifestyle exercising, sleeping well and controlling stress can help your immune system. No matter what, youll need to keep taking your medications if you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
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Can Hyperthyroidism Be Cured
Yes, there is a permanent treatment for hyperthyroidism. Removing your thyroid through surgery will cure hyperthyroidism. However, once the thyroid is removed, you will need to take thyroid hormone replacement medications for the rest of your life. Your body still needs thyroid hormones, just not at such high levels as you have in hyperthyroidism. Though you will need to regularly take the medication and check in with your healthcare provider regularly, this is a manageable form of thyroid disease which allows you to live a normal life.
Your Thyroid And Your Heart
Although the new studys findings focus on thyroid hormones in the high end of the normal range, they shouldnt overshadow the cardiovascular health risks associated with low thyroid hormone levels too, said Martin Gerdes, professor and chairman in the New York Institute of Technologys College of Osteopathic Medicine, who was not involved in the study.
Within the normal range of thyroid hormone levels, many other studies show that cardiac patients on the low end had more cardiac risks than those on the high end, Gerdes said.
My worry is that results for this study may encourage physicians to undertreat low thyroid conditions in cardiac patients, he said. For proper heart health, it is important to have normal thyroid hormone function. Thyroid hormone levels directly affect cardiac contraction, relaxation and coronary blood flow.
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What Is The Treatment For Graves’ Disease Can It Be Cured
You have three treatment options: medicine, radioiodine therapy, and thyroid surgery. Radioiodine therapy is the most common treatment for Graves’ disease in the United States, but doctors are beginning to use medicine more often than in the past. Based on factors such as your age, whether you are pregnant, or whether you have other medical conditions, your doctor may recommend a specific treatment and can help you decide which one is right for you.
How Does Hypothyroidism Affect Your Body
Hypothyroidism can affect you in ways that can be hard emotionally and physically. For example:
- When your metabolism slows due to hypothyroidism, you eventually gain weight, feel tired more often and have little energy.
- You can experience fuzzy thinking and memory problems .
- Women can develop menstrual irregularity and change in flow, and find it harder to become pregnant.
- You may be increasingly constipated , have heartburn and other digestive problems.
- Hypothyroidism can also lead to sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
A slow metabolism can affect almost every part of your body, with effects mild to severe.
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What Does The Thyroid Do
Your thyroid has an important job to do within your body releasing and controlling thyroid hormones that control metabolism. Metabolism is a process where the food you take into your body is transformed into energy. This energy is used throughout your entire body to keep many of your bodys systems working correctly. Think of your metabolism as a generator. It takes in raw energy and uses it to power something bigger.
The thyroid controls your metabolism with a few specific hormones T4 and T3 . These two hormones are created by the thyroid and they tell the bodys cells how much energy to use. When your thyroid works properly, it will maintain the right amount of hormones to keep your metabolism working at the right rate. As the hormones are used, the thyroid creates replacements.
This is all supervised by something called the pituitary gland. Located in the center of the skull, below your brain, the pituitary gland monitors and controls the amount of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream. When the pituitary gland senses a lack of thyroid hormones or a high level of hormones in your body, it will adjust the amounts with its own hormone. This hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone . The TSH will be sent to the thyroid and it will tell the thyroid what needs to be done to get the body back to normal.
A Note From Paloma Health
Thyroid patients who consistently take the right dose of thyroid replacement medication can lead healthy lives and may even have increased longevity. However, untreated hypothyroidism can lead to a decreased quality of life and increase your risk for long-term complications like heart disease.
Schedule a consultation with a Paloma Health thyroid doctor to optimize your thyroid function to reclaim your health and improve your quality of life.
Take this short quiz to determine which Paloma Health doctor is right for you:
What Are The Symptoms Of Hashimotos Disease
Some people may not have any symptoms at first. As the disease slowly progresses, the thyroid gland becomes enlarged . A goiter is a common first sign of Hashimotos disease. A goiter is painless, but can create a feeling of fullness in the throat, and can make the front of your neck look swollen.
Other symptoms of Hashimotos disease that develop over time include:
How Is Thyroid Disease Treated
Your healthcare providers goal is to return your thyroid hormone levels to normal. This can be done in a variety of ways and each specific treatment will depend on the cause of your thyroid condition.
If you have high levels of thyroid hormones , treatment options can include:
- Anti-thyroid drugs : These are medications that stop your thyroid from making hormones.
- Radioactive iodine: This treatment damages the cells of your thyroid, preventing it from making high levels of thyroid hormones.
- Beta blockers: These medications dont change the amount of hormones in your body, but they help control your symptoms.
- Surgery: A more permanent form of treatment, your healthcare provider may surgically remove your thyroid . This will stop it from creating hormones. However, you will need to take thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of your life.
If you have low levels of thyroid hormones , the main treatment option is:
- Thyroid replacement medication: This drug is a synthetic way to add thyroid hormones back into your body. One drug thats commonly used is called levothyroxine. By using a medication, you can control thyroid disease and live a normal life.
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Thyroid Cancer And Chemotherapy
Thyroid cancer is unique among cancers. In fact, thyroid cells are unique among all cells of the human body. They are the only cells that have the ability to absorb iodine. Iodine is required for thyroid cells to produce thyroid hormone, so they absorb it out of the bloodstream and concentrate it inside the cell.
The most common thyroid cancers are made up of cells that retain this ability to absorb and concentrate iodine. This provides a perfect targeted strategy.
Radioactive Iodine is given to the patients with certain types of thyroid cancers called differentiated thyroid cancers following complete removal of their thyroid gland. These differentiated thyroid cancers include the most common thyroid cancers of papillary thyroid cancer and follicular thyroid cancers. If there are any normal thyroid cells or any remaining thyroid cancer cells in the patients body , then these cells will absorb and concentrate the radioactive iodine.
Since most other cells of our bodies cannot absorb the toxic iodine, they remain unharmed. The thyroid cancer cells, however, will concentrate the poisonous radioactive iodine within themselves and the radioactivity destroys the cell from withinno sickness, hair loss, nausea, diarrhea, or pain. Some normal cells such as your saliva glands, tear glands, breast tissue and bone marrow also will absorb some iodine and receive some potential risk of damage.
Medical History And Physical Examination Is Required For All Patients With A Potential Diagnosis Of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
If there has been a FNA and a anaplastic thyroid cancer has been suggested, a diagnosis of anaplastic thyroid cancer is possible therefore your health care professional will want to know your complete medical history. You will be asked questions about your possible risk factors, symptoms, and any other health problems or concerns.
Your doctor will examine you to get more information about possible signs of thyroid cancer and other health problems. During the exam, the doctor will pay special attention to the size and firmness of your thyroid and any enlarged lymph nodes in your neck. Examination of your voice box is part of the physical examination obtained by the surgeon for any thyroid lump. This is called a laryngoscopy and utilizes a small lighted instrument with a camera on the end to visualize the voice box . It is a simple examination obtained without the need for sedation or discomfort to examine the vocal cords and their function.
What Causes Hashimotos Disease
Hashimotos disease is an autoimmune disease, which means the bodys immune system is attacking its own cells and organs. Normally, the immune system protects the body against infections caused by bacteria, viruses and other harmful substances.
In Hashimotos disease, the immune system makes antibodies that attack and damage the thyroid tissue. As a result, the thyroid gland becomes inflamed and the ability to make thyroid hormone becomes damaged, eventually leading to hypothyroidism.
What Other Health Problems Could I Have Because Of Hyperthyroidism
If hyperthyroidism isnt treated, it can cause some serious health problems, including
- an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related problems
- an eye disease called Graves ophthalmopathy that can cause double vision, light sensitivity, and eye pain, and rarely can lead to vision loss
- thinning bones and osteoporosis
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When To Get Medical Advice
See a GP if you have symptoms of thyroid cancer. The symptoms may be caused by less serious conditions, such as an enlarged thyroid , so its important to get them checked.
A GP will examine your neck and can organise a blood test to check how well your thyroid is working.
If they think you could have cancer or theyre not sure whats causing your symptoms, youll be referred to a hospital specialist for more tests.
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Thyroid Surgery Recovery Side Effects And Complications
If you are having thyroid surgery, known as a thyroidectomy, it’s important to know what to expect as you recover. Side effects of surgery are common and include neck pain, a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and temporary hypoparathyroidism. Complications are much less common and can include bleeding , permanent hypoparathyroidism , and damage to nerves that can lead to long-term hoarseness and vocal changes.
Taking time to learn about post-thyroidectomy recovery can prepare you to cope with any symptoms and to be alert to any problems.
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What Causes Thyroid Disease
The two main types of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Both conditions can be caused by other diseases that impact the way the thyroid gland works.
Conditions that can cause hypothyroidism include:
- Thyroiditis: This condition is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. Thyroiditis can lower the amount of hormones your thyroid produces.
- Hashimotos thyroiditis: A painless disease, Hashimotos thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the bodys cells attack and damage the thyroid. This is an inherited condition.
- Postpartum thyroiditis: This condition occurs in 5% to 9% of women after childbirth. Its usually a temporary condition.
- Iodine deficiency: Iodine is used by the thyroid to produce hormones. An iodine deficiency is an issue that affects several million people around the world..
- A non-functioning thyroid gland: Sometimes, the thyroid gland doesnt work correctly from birth. This affects about 1 in 4,000 newborns. If left untreated, the child could have both physical and mental issues in the future. All newborns are given a screening blood test in the hospital to check their thyroid function.
Conditions that can cause hyperthyroidism include: