What Is Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease is a general term for a medical condition that keeps your thyroid from making the right amount of hormones. Your thyroid typically makes hormones that keep your body functioning normally. When the thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone, your body uses energy too quickly. This is called hyperthyroidism. Using energy too quickly will do more than make you tired it can make your heart beat faster, cause you to lose weight without trying and even make you feel nervous. On the flip-side of this, your thyroid can make too little thyroid hormone. This is called hypothyroidism. When you have too little thyroid hormone in your body, it can make you feel tired, you might gain weight and you may even be unable to tolerate cold temperatures.
These two main disorders can be caused by a variety of conditions. They can also be passed down through families .
What About Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is uncommon and is among the least deadly. The main symptom is a lump or swelling in the neck, and only about 5% of thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous. When thyroid cancer is diagnosed, it is most often treated with surgery followed by radioactive iodine therapy or, in some cases, external radiation therapy.
What Is The Thyroid Gland
Your thyroid gland is one of many glands that make up your endocrine system. Endocrine glands release hormones that control different bodily functions.
The pituitary gland in your brain controls your thyroid gland and other endocrine glands. It releases thyroid-stimulating hormone . As the name suggests, TSH stimulates your thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone.
Your thyroid needs iodine, a mineral, to make these hormones. Iodine-rich foods include cod, tuna, dairy products, whole-grain bread and iodized salt.
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How Long Does It Take To Treat Hyperthyroidism
The amount of time it takes to treat hyperthyroidism can change depending on what caused the condition. If your healthcare provider treats your condition with anti-thyroid medications your hormone levels should drop to a controllable level in about six to 12 weeks. Your healthcare provider may decide to give you high doses of iodine drops which would normalize thyroid levels in seven to 10 days. However, this is short-term solution and you will most likely need a more permanent solution like surgery. Though you may need to wait for a period of time to be scheduled for thyroid surgery , this is a very effective and definitive way to treat hyperthyroidism. Its considered a permanent solution for hyperthyroidism.
Types Of Thyroid Diseases
Primarily there are two types of Thyroid diseases: Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism.
- Hyperthyroidism, also called overactive thyroid, is caused when thyroid gland over-produces the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
- Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid, happens when thyroid gland under-produces the TSH.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Postpartum Thyroiditis
The hyperthyroid phase often has no symptomsor only mild ones. Symptoms may include irritability, trouble dealing with heat, tiredness, trouble sleeping, and fast heartbeat.
Symptoms of the hypothyroid phase may be mistaken for the baby bluesthe tiredness and moodiness that sometimes occur after the baby is born. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may also include trouble dealing with cold dry skin trouble concentrating and tingling in your hands, arms, feet, or legs. If these symptoms occur in the first few months after your baby is born or you develop postpartum depression, talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
Causes Symptoms Diagnosis Treatments And Support
Endless energy, unexplained weight lossthe initial symptoms of an overactive thyroid are often seen as good symptoms. Thats why hyperthyroidism is one of the most underdiagnosed endocrine conditions. But if left unchecked, it can lead to serious complications. Were here to empower you with clear answers to all your hyperthyroid questions.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is the abnormal function of your thyroid gland, an organ located in the front of your neck that releases hormones to regulate your bodys use of energy. In other words, if you have high thyroid levels, it means that your thyroid gland is overactive and makes more thyroid hormones than your body needs, which causes hyperthyroidism.
The hormones produced by your thyroid gland are thyroxine and triiodothyronine , and they play an important role in the way your entire body functions. For this reason, when there is an imbalance, such as high T4, it can have far-reaching effects on almost every aspect of your health.
Infographic by Lauren Hunter
- body temperature
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How Is Postpartum Thyroiditis Treated
Treatment for postpartum thyroiditis depends on the phase of the disease and what symptoms you have. For example, if you get symptoms of hyperthyroidism in the first phase, your treatment may include medicines to slow down the heart rate.
In most women who have postpartum thyroiditis, the thyroid returns to normal within 12 to 18 months after symptoms start. But if you have a history of postpartum thyroiditis, your risk is higher for developing permanent hypothyroidism within 5 to 10 years.
What Could Go Wrong With The Thyroid Gland
Normally the thyroid gland produces the exact number of hormones needed to keep your bodys metabolism running and in balance. As described earlier, hormones secreted by the pituitary gland stay constant in your blood circulation, but their levels may increase or decrease when T4 levels in the blood are changing. This hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid feedback loop keeps the levels of T4 in your blood stable and reacts to small changes immediately.
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 or your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone , resulting in your body using energy faster or slower than it should.
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Thyroid Disease: A Checklist Of Skin Hair And Nail Changes
Although your thyroid gland sits deep in your neck, your dermatologist may be the first doctor to notice signs of thyroid disease. Thats because many signs and symptoms of thyroid disease develop on the skin, hair, and nails.
The thyroid gland
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones, which play a key role in regulating your heartbeat, breathing, and many other functions.
You, too, may also be able to spot thyroid disease, and thats important. Caught early, treatment can prevent complications. When thyroid disease goes untreated for years, it can lead to a dangerously slow heartbeat, an injury that refuses to heal, or unrelenting pain. You may have gained or lost weight for no apparent reason.
To help you find early signs of thyroid disease on your skin, hair, and nails, heres a checklist.
Feeling Chilly Or Overheated
Blood pressure is directly linked to circulation. Low circulation will result in feelings of being chilled. You might find that you are reaching for a sweater when others are feeling just fine. If you are always cold or notice that your hands and feet become particularly chilled when uncovered, you may be experiencing a symptom of hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism might present in the opposite way. This could cause you to feel hot flashes or experience excessive sweating.
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Risk Factors Of Thyroid Cancer In Women
- Gender and age: Women are three times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer. Women are most often diagnosed at ages 4050, men in their 60s or 70s.
- Low iodine diet: Increase in follicular thyroid cancer
- Radiation: Exposure may come from certain medical treatments and radioactive fallout from power plant accidents and nuclear weapons.
- Hereditary conditions and family history: Especially medullary thyroid cancer
How Do Doctors Treat Postpartum Thyroiditis
The hyperthyroid stage of postpartum thyroiditis rarely needs treatment. If your symptoms are bothering you, your doctor may prescribe a beta-blocker, a medicine that slows your heart rate. Antithyroid medicines are not useful in postpartum thyroiditis, but if you have Graves disease, it may worsen after your baby is born and you may need antithyroid medicines.
Youre more likely to have symptoms during the hypothyroid stage. Your doctor may prescribe thyroid hormone medicine to help with your symptoms. If your hypothyroidism doesnt go away, you will need to take thyroid hormone medicine for the rest of your life.
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Thyroid Disease: Symptoms And Treatment
Most people have heard of the thyroid gland, but many do not know or understand what the thyroid gland does. The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland. It makes a hormone called thyroid hormone, which is involved in regulating the bodys metabolism. The gland is shaped like a butterfly and located in the front of the neck below the Adams apple.
Problems can occasionally occur in the gland. One of the most common problems affecting the thyroid gland is hypothyroidism. This occurs when the gland stops making enough hormone. The most common cause of this condition is Hashimotos thyroiditis an autoimmune disorder that ultimately causes the gland to stop working.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may vary, and can include fatigue, weight gain, constipation and dry skin. Hypothyroidism is treated medically by replacing the bodys hormone with a medication that is taken daily for life.
Some disorders of the thyroid gland cause it to be overactive and make too much hormone. Not surprisingly, this is called hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism usually is caused by an autoimmune disease called Graves disease or by a metabolically active thyroid nodule that is making too much hormone.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism also vary, and can include weight loss, rapid heart rate, sweating, diarrhea and nervousness. Graves disease can be treated with medication, radioactive iodine therapy or surgery.
OTHER THYROID DISORDERS
WHEN TO SEEK TREATMENT
Genes Play A Role In Thyroid Cancers
Dr. Nasr has found that even thyroid cancers that arentconsidered hereditary can have a family link. Ive had situations wheremultiple family members have had the type of thyroid cancer thats usually nothereditary, he says.
Clustering of cancers in families isnt unique to thyroidcancer. Some families carry a mutation that suppresses good genes in thebody, which can put them at risk for a variety of cancers.
Different syndromes can increase someones risk for certain types of cancer, Dr. Nasr explains. Cowdens syndrome, for example, increases your risk of thyroid, breast and uterine cancers. Your family history may not include thyroid cancer, but if we see a lot of breast and uterine cancers, we may want to investigate whether there is a syndrome that puts you at risk for thyroid nodules or cancer.
The takeaway: As with the autoimmune disorders, knowyour family history. This information helps your healthcare team find patterns thatmight indicate thyroid disease-causing gene mutations lurking in the background.
What Causes A Thyroid Nodule To Form
Sometimes the thyroid begins to grow , causing one or more nodules to form. Why this happens is not known. Cancer is the biggest concern when nodules form. Fortunately, cancer is very rare it is found in less than 5 percent of all nodules. Nodules develop more often in people who have a family history of nodules, and in people who dont get enough iodine. Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormone.
There are different types of thyroid nodules:
- Colloid nodules: These are one or more overgrowths of normal thyroid tissue. These growths are benign . They may grow large, but they do not spread beyond the thyroid gland.
- Thyroid cysts: These are growths that are filled with fluid or partly solid and partly filled with fluid.
- Inflammatory nodules: These nodules develop as a result of chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. These growths may or may not cause pain.
- Multinodular goiter: Sometimes an enlarged thyroid is made up of many nodules .
- Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules: These nodules autonomously produce thyroid hormone without regard for normal feedback control mechanisms, which may lead to the development of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism can affect the heart and cause such problems as sudden cardiac arrest, high blood pressure, arrhythmias , osteoporosis and other health problems.
- Thyroid cancer: Less than 5 percent of thyroid nodules are cancerous.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism
At first, you might not notice the signs or symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms usually begin slowly. But, over time, a faster metabolism can cause symptoms such as:
- Weight loss, even if you eat the same or more food
- Eating more than usual
- Diarrhea or more bowel movements than normal
- Fewer and lighter menstrual periods than normal
- Changes in your eyes that can include bulging of the eyes, redness, or irritation
Hyperthyroidism raises your risk for , a condition that causes weak bones that break easily. In fact, hyperthyroidism might affect your bones before you have any of the other symptoms of the condition. This is especially true of women who have gone through menopause or who are already at high risk of osteoporosis.
Can Hyperthyroidism Be Prevented Or Avoided
You cannot prevent hyperthyroidism. However, some people are more at risk for the condition. This includes people who:
- Were born female.
- Have a family history of thyroid disease.
- Are younger than 40 or older than 60.
- Have certain problems, such as type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia, or an immune system disorder.
- Consume large amounts of iodine, either through food or medicine
Whats The Connection Between Hypothyroidism And Weight Loss
Once youre treated for this condition, you may lose any weight that youve gained. Thats because once your thyroid levels are restored, your ability to manage your weight returns to normal.
If youre treating hypothyroidism but dont see a change in your weight, that doesnt mean weight loss is impossible. Work with a doctor, registered dietitian, or personal trainer to develop a focused healthy-eating plan and exercise strategy that can help you lose weight. Get more tips on managing your weight when you have hypothyroidism.
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Symptoms Of Hashimotos Disease
Hashimotos disease progresses very slowly over many years, so the symptoms may go unnoticed. The symptoms and signs vary depending on individual factors including the severity of the condition, but may include:
- Unrelenting fatigue
- Stiff and tender joints, particularly in the hands, feet and knees
- Cognitive changes, such as depression or forgetfulness
- Enlargement of the thyroid gland
- In women, heavy menstrual bleeding .
Sometimes Hashimotos disease does not cause any noticeable symptoms. The condition may be discovered during investigations for other, perhaps unrelated, medical problems.
How Is Thyroid Cancer Managed Or Treated
Treatments for thyroid cancer depend on the tumor size and whether the cancer has spread. Treatments include:
- Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer. Depending on the tumors size and location, your surgeon may remove part of the thyroid gland or all of the gland . Your surgeon also removes any nearby lymph nodes where cancer cells have spread.
- Radioiodine therapy: With radioiodine therapy, you swallow a pill or liquid containing a higher dose of radioactive iodine than whats used in a diagnostic radioiodine scan. The radioiodine shrinks and destroys the diseased thyroid gland along with cancer cells. Dont be alarmed this treatment is very safe. Your thyroid gland absorbs almost all of the radioiodine. The rest of your body has minimal radiation exposure.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation kills cancer cells and stops them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine to deliver strong beams of energy directly to the tumor site. Internal radiation therapy involves placing radioactive seeds in or around the tumor.
- Chemotherapy: Intravenous or oral chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells and stops cancer growth. Very few patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer will ever need chemotherapy.
- Hormone therapy: This treatment blocks the release of hormones that can cause cancer to spread or come back.
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Whats The Connection Between Hypothyroidism And Weight Gain
Your thyroid is responsible for many of your bodys daily functions, including metabolism, organ function, and temperature control. When your body doesnt produce enough thyroid hormone, all of these functions can slow down.
If your thyroid gland doesnt function properly, your basal metabolic rate may be low. For that reason, an underactive thyroid is commonly associated with weight gain. The more severe the condition is, the greater your weight gain is likely to be.
The typical amount of weight gain isnt very high, though. Most people will gain somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds.
Properly treating the condition can help you lose any weight you gained while your thyroid levels were uncontrolled. However, keep in mind that thats not always the case. Symptoms of underactive thyroid, including weight gain, develop over a long period of time.
Its not uncommon for people with low thyroid hormone levels to lose no weight after theyre treated for the condition. That doesnt mean the condition isnt being properly treated. Instead, it may indicate that your weight gain was the result of lifestyle choices rather than low hormone levels.
What Is Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer happens when cancer cells form from the tissues of the thyroid gland.
Most people with thyroid cancer have a thyroid nodule that does not cause any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may have swelling or a lump in your neck. The lump may cause problems swallowing. Some people get a hoarse voice.
To tell if the lump or nodule is cancerous, your doctor will order . Most thyroid nodules are not cancerous.
For more information about thyroid cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute’s thyroid cancer page.
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