Thyroid : Causes, Symptoms & Prevention
Dr. Sneha Ganatra
November 02, 2020
There are eight major endocrine glands in the body and among them is the thyroid gland. It is butterfly-shaped and located on the front of the neck, directly under the voice box. Knowing thyroid anatomy can help you better understand how this gland affects your voice and where its hormones are secreted from. The thyroid is responsible for releasing various hormones into the blood, which are together called thyroid hormones, and controls major body functions. It plays a role in your body’s metabolism, growth and development too. So, if you’ve ever wondered, ‘Is thyroid a disease?’, you now have a clear answer and are aware that it is an important gland in the body.
However, like with any part of the human body, there are ways in which it can malfunction and cause disorders. Understanding these disorders is important, especially if you’re susceptible to or are at risk of developing these. There are 2 major thyroid types that you should be aware of. You can either develop hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, both of which are related to the gland’s production of the thyroid hormones. For a more detailed understanding of thyroid disorders, their causes, and their symptoms and to know how you can prevent them, read on.
Otherwise known as an overactive thyroid, this is when the thyroid produces too much of the tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) hormones. These are the key to controlling how cells use energy and they help with regulating the body’s metabolism. Moreover, the leading cause of hyperthyroidism occurs more often in women and has a genetic link. This is also not as common as hypothyroidism and so, it is important to get regular check-ups if there is someone in your family with the condition.
While most cases of hyperthyroidism have a common cause, there are about 7 factors you should know of. With this disorder of the thyroid, reasons like tumours, inflammation and even certain medication can play a role. This is why you should know what can cause such a disorder and stay alert to it to avoid thyroid symptoms that follow. Here’s an explanation of the factors that can cause hyperthyroidism.
- Certain medication
- Thyroid nodules
- High levels of human chorionic gonadotropin
- Graves’ disease
- Thyroid cancer
- Pituitary adenoma
Early signs and symptoms
Before learning about the clear symptoms of hyperthyroidism, you should know about the early signs. This helps with an early diagnosis and gives you a jumpstart on treatment. Moreover, a lot of these early signs are physical in nature, meaning they’re hard to miss.
- Excessive sweating
- Red palms
- Hives or a raised, itchy rash
- Thinning hair or patchy hair loss
- Swelling in the neck
- Vision problems coupled with dryness or redness of the eyes
These are all the signs to lookout for when it comes to hyperthyroidism. Now, for the symptoms of this disorder, here is what you can expect.
- Mood swings
- Muscle weakness
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Unintentional weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Brittle hair
- Breast development in men
Unlike with hyperthyroidism where the gland is overactive, with hypothyroidism, the gland doesn’t produce enough of the necessary hormones. As the thyroid controls important bodily functions, without proper hormone production, these functions begin to slow down. This condition also affects women more than men, and this is why you should get tested regularly. The best way to know is to undergo a thyroid function test as per your doctor’s suggestions. The common causes for such a disorder result from issues within the gland itself or from specific regions in the brain. Given the nature of these causes, it is important to get tested and to know what leads to the development of hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism has 6 common causes which share some similarities with those that cause hyperthyroidism. Here too you’ll find that an autoimmune disease and medical treatments can lead to this disorder. This is a list of 6 factors that cause hypothyroidism.
- Radiation therapy
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Treatment with radioactive iodine
- Surgical removal of a damaged thyroid gland
- Certain medication
- Acute thyroiditis or postpartum thyroiditis
A lot of the symptoms experienced with hypothyroidism vary from person to person. This is because it is mainly dependent on the severity of hormone deficiency. Rather than exhibiting symptoms instantly, it is likely that those afflicted will develop these over a few years. In fact, you may not even notice many symptoms in the early stages or as a youngster. For this reason, it is important to know what to look for, especially if there is familial history with such diseases.
Here are a few common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.
- Dry skin
- Muscle weakness, tenderness, stiffness
- Slowed heart rate
- Cold sensitivity
- Weight gain
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Impaired memory
- Swollen joints
Preventing thyroid diseases
It is important to note that not all forms of thyroid disease can be prevent or avoided. In some cases, you can only lower your risk and that is a worthwhile endeavour. Here’s what you can do:
- Maintain healthy iodine levels
- Quit smoking
- Insist on thyroid collars during dental x-rays
- Control soy food intake
- Cook cruciferous vegetable properly
- Check for vitamin D deficiency
Thyroid disorders are serious and should not be taken lightly. Knowing how they can affect your life helps highlight the importance of appropriate care. For many disorders of the thyroid, home remedies coupled with medication can help control or revert back to optimal function. However, for more severe cases, you may require a thyroidectomy to get better. This medical operation is performed by a specialist and it is wise to consult one if you’re showing signs of any such illness.
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