The Thyroid is a small gland that has butterfly-shaped located at the base of our neck just below the Adam’s apple in front of larynx (voice box). It produces thyroid hormone (TH) that has a huge role in our body. The thyroid secretes hormones through bloodstream to every cell and every organ in our body which is responsible for keeping your metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, mood, and more, in check. During infancy and childhood, adequate thyroid hormone is crucial for brain development. The Thyroid gland is brownish-red in color and rich with blood vessels. Nerves important for voice quality also pass through the thyroid.
How the thyroid works?
The thyroid secretes several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones. The main hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which are partially composed of iodine. Let’s see how the gland affects your body:
- Heartbeat: Thyroid hormones influence your heartbeat and help control blood flow by relaxing the muscles in the walls of your blood vessels.
- Fertility: Thyroid hormones also influence your menstrual cycle. If thyroid is imbalance, you might have irregular ovulation and periods.
- Bones: If Thyroid hormone is imbalanced, it can affect your bones. The bones will be weak and destroyed faster which can lead to Osteoporosis.
- Body-weight: Thyroid also affects your body weight as thyroid regulates your metabolism (how quickly your body burns calories). Weight loss is known as Hyperthyroidism and weight gain known as Hypothyroidism.
- Brain Function: Low thyroid levels can bring on forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and depression. Luckily, these symptoms tend to reverse with synthetic hormone treatment.
- Your skin: When your thyroid is underactive, your body stops making and shedding skin cells at its normal pace. Cells build up, causing dry, dull-looking skin. (Hair and nail growth slow down as well.)
Kinds of Thyroid disorders:
Too much thyroid hormone results in a condition known as Hyperthyroidism and insufficient hormone production leads to Hypothyroidism. Since the thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, disorders of these tissues can also affect thyroid function and cause thyroid problems. When thyroid hormone levels are low, the hypothalamus in the brain produces a hormone known as thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) that causes the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain) to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to release more T4. Although the effects can be unpleasant or uncomfortable, most thyroid problems can be managed well if properly diagnosed and treated. Here are the kinds of Thyroid disorders:
- Goiter: Thyroid gland swelling is known as Goiter. It is not a specific disease and can be harmless. Goiter can represent iodine deficiency or a condition associated with thyroid inflammation called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Goiter is more common in women than in men and especially in women before menopause.
- Thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid, usually from a viral infection or autoimmune condition. Thyroiditis can be painful or have no symptoms at all.
- Hyperthyroidism: Excessive production of thyroid hormone is Hyperthyroidism. Your thyroids make more thyroid hormones than your body needs. This speeds up many of your body’s functions, like your metabolism and heart rate. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is a problem with the immune system.
Sign & Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism:
- Weight loss
- Feeling irritable
- Fast heart rate
- Increase in bowel movements
- Increased sweating
- Concentration problems
- Trembling in your hands and fingers
- Feeling hot when other people do not
- Diarrhea or more bowel movements than normal
- Fewer and lighter menstrual periods than normal
- Hypothyroidism: Low production of thyroid hormone is Hypothyroidism. This slows down many of your body’s functions, like your metabolism. Thyroid damage caused by autoimmune disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It can develop from problems within the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus.
Sign & Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
- Slow Heart rate
- Pale and Dry Skin
- Dry and thinning hair
- Feeling cold when other people do not
- Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food
- Feeling tired all day
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Fluid retention
- Muscle and joint aches
- Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding in women
- Poor concentration or feeling mentally “foggy”
- Thyroid Nodules: Thyroid Nodules are lumps or abnormal masses in one section of the thyroid gland. It may be solid or filled with fluid or blood. Nodules may be single or multiple and can vary in size. Thyroid nodules are extremely common. About 50 percent of people will have nodules that are too tiny to feel. Thyroid nodules affect four times as many women as men. The causes aren’t always known but can include iodine deficiency and Hashimoto’s disease.
- Thyroid Cancer: Cancer of the thyroid gland is quite rare and occurs in about 5% of thyroid nodules. You might have one or more thyroid nodules for several years before they are determined to be cancerous. Thyroid cancer is usually curable. Surgery, radiation, and hormone treatments may be used to treat thyroid cancer. Most cases of thyroid cancer have a good prognosis and high survival rates, especially when diagnosed in its early stages.
How are thyroid diseases diagnosed?
It is very difficult to tell if you have thyroid disease because symptoms are the same as many other health problems. Depending on the symptoms, doctor may advise for tests, such as:
- Blood Test to testing the level of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Thyroid ultrasound can detect abnormal areas of thyroid tissue.
- Thyroid scan with radioactive iodine to get images of the thyroid gland
- Thyroid biopsy to look for thyroid cancer. Thyroid biopsy is typically done with a needle.
- Other imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans can help identify the extent of spread.
Treatments of Thyroid:
Medications: Medications can be given to replace the missing thyroid hormone in hypothyroidism and can be used to decrease the uction of thyroid hormone. If hyperthyroidism is not controlled with medications, radioactive ablation can be performed. Ablation involves giving doses of iodine labeled with radioactivity that selectively destroys the thyroid tissue.
Thyroid Surgery (Thyroidectomy): Surgery can be used to remove all or part of the thyroid. Surgery is necessary when there is a possibility of thyroid cancer. If the thyroid gland is removed entirely, the individual will need to take synthetic thyroid hormone for life.
Radioactive Iodine: Radioactivity Iodine can be used in low doses to test the thyroid gland or destroy an overactive gland. Large doses can be used to destroy cancerous tissue.
Why thyroid problems are more common in women?
Thyroid problems are more common in women. Women are five to eight times as likely to have thyroid problems as men and the reason is estrogen hormone. Thyroid cells have a large concentration of estrogen receptors which means they’re extra sensitive to the effects of the female sex hormone. Another possible reason is; in many causes of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are related to autoimmune diseases, and women are generally more prone to those disorders. The most common cause of hypothyroidism, for example, is Hashimoto’s disease (which is about seven times as prevalent in women), and the most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease (which is up to 10 times as prevalent in women).