What you need to know about Thyroid

Facts & Stats

Thyroid diseases are caused by the malfunctioning of the thyroid gland, which can lead to abnormalities in the secretion of the thyroid hormones. It is estimated that 20 million people in American and around 42 million men and women in India suffer from various kinds of thyroid diseases. Women have been found to suffer more from thyroid problems compared to men. In fact, it is believed that about one in eight women has a high risk of suffering from thyroid disease. Early detection and treatment of thyroid disorders can lead to better prognosis of thyroid conditions which can ensure better health.

Symptoms

There are numerous types of thyroid related diseases and in many cases the symptoms are specific to a particular condition. It is important that you learn about the types of thyroid diseases that can possibly affect you: 

  • Goiters
  • Thyroiditis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Graves' Disease
  • Silent Thyroiditis
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Thyroid Nodules
  • Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
  • Papillary Thyroid Cancer
  • Follicular Thyroid Cancer
  • Medullary Thyroid Cancer
  • De Quervain's Thyroiditis
  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
  • Hurthle Cell Thyroid Cancer

There are also some common symptoms that can generally be noticed in a patient suffering from a thyroid problem. Let’s have a closer look at some of them.

  • Hair loss
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling cold
  • Constipation
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Feeling depressed
  • Dry, itchy skin with brittle nails
  • Goiter or swelling of thyroid gland 
  • Elevated levels of blood cholesterol 
  • Irregular or heavy periods in women 
  • Trouble concentrating and remembering
  • Weakness and soreness in joints and muscles
  • Feeling tired almost all the time or getting tired easily 

Causes

A number of factors can lead to thyroid diseases. Some of them are described below.  

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Thyroid gland cancer 
  • Some forms of genetic disorders
  • Cancerous tumors on thyroid gland
  • Inflammation of thyroid gland caused by a bacteria or virus
  • Nodules inside the thyroid which are like non-cancerous lumps 
  • Some types of medical treatments, such as thyroid surgery, radiation therapy as well as certain medicines
  • Autoimmune diseases: These are conditions in which the immune system starts to attack the body itself, causing hypothyroidism resulting from Hashimoto's disease or hyperthyroidism resulting from Graves’ disease
  • In some cases, pregnancy may lead to thyroid conditions 

Diagnosis

One of the things that you need to understand about thyroid problems is that most of the symptoms associated with thyroid do not develop immediately and they may take a long time to become apparent. Even when a person starts to show the first signs of a thyroid disease, he or she may brush them off as nothing. Therefore it is always a good idea for a person to be aware of the underlying reasons for such symptoms and consult the doctor to avail the best diagnostic solutions. The doctor is going to first carry out a basic physical examination and ask questions about any health issues or discomfort. Then the doctor is going to recommend tests for evaluating the thyroid hormone levels in the body. This can help to detect if the thyroid gland is overactive or underactive. An FNA or fine needle aspiration can be carried out if the doctor suspects the presence of thyroid cancer. Some of the other diagnostic tests that are associated with thyroid problems include elevated thyroglobulin level, depressed radioactive iodine uptake or RAIU and elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate. In any case, the doctor may also perform some other evaluations just to clarify and make sure about the specific type of thyroid disease.

Treatment

One of the most common methods of treating thyroid hormone related diseases is to carry out a hormonal replacement therapy. This particularly works well for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The doctor may also recommend other modes of treatment depending on the nature of the condition that has affected the patient. The age of the patient is also a determining factor when it comes to the type of treatment chosen and the drugs used. For instance, the medications that would be fine for a teenager may not work in the same way for an adult patient.

It is important to note that the treatment of a thyroid condition may go on for a long time and the patient may recover only gradually. The doctor may also recommend surgery in case of some extreme forms of thyroid problems. If a patient has been suffering from skin conditions, hair fall and depression, he or she may need to see a counselor or a skin specialist. For women who are suffering from thyroid problems, it is advisable to get in touch with a gynecologist. This will help in ensuring a wholesome treatment for the patient.