Thyroid: What it is, Types, Causes & Symptoms

thyroid

Introduction

The thyroid gland is an essential endocrine gland in the body that produces and secretes hormones responsible for many crucial functions in the body, particularly the metabolism and energy utilisation aspects. Having more or less than the normal amount of thyroid hormones can disrupt such processes in the body, leading to appearance of adverse symptoms. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is necessary to help manage thyroid disease symptoms. 

What is Thyroid Disease?

Thyroid is a small butterfly shaped endocrine gland located at the base of the neck, covering the windpipe. It is responsible for secretion of specific hormones and plays a pivotal role in aiding many different bodily processes and functions.

If the thyroid gland secretes more or less than necessary amounts of its hormones, it leads to a thyroid disease. These diseases may range from a harmless goitre that requires no treatment, to potentially leading to cancer. Nevertheless, the most commonly occurring thyroid diseases are often a result of irregular secretion of thyroid hormones. Thyroid diseases may result in unpleasant effects in the body but most of them can be effectively managed if diagnosed and treated on time.

Types & Causes of Thyroid Diseases 

If the thyroid gland doesn’t work properly, it can have an adverse impact on the body. Overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones can cause hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, respectively. The different thyroid types can be found under these two broad classifications of thyroid function.

Hyperthyroidism 

If the body makes too much of the thyroid hormone, it leads to hyperthyroidism. This condition may be present in various ways and may cause different conditions. The different hyperthyroidism causes include:

  • Graves’ disease: This is a condition where there is too much production of thyroid hormones.
  • Toxic adenomas: Nodules may form on the thyroid gland which may cause overproduction of thyroid hormones. 
  • Subacute thyroiditis: It is an inflammatory condition of the thyroid and may lead to temporary hyperthyroidism.
  • Pituitary gland malfunction or cancer: These may occur in rare cases of hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism

When the thyroid gland produces very less of the thyroid hormone, it leads to hypothyroidism. The various hypothyroidism causes may include:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: This is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the thyroid gland. This causes loss of thyroid tissues resulting in reduced production of thyroid hormones. 
  • Iodine deficiency: One of the most common hypothyroidism causes is having low iodine in the body. 
  • Excessive exposure to iodine: Certain medications or contrast dyes applied before X-rays and other imaging procedures may expose a person to higher levels of iodine. This may also lead to hypothyroidism.
  • Removal of the thyroid gland: If the thyroid gland is removed surgically or destroyed during certain cancer treatment modalities, hypothyroidism may occur.
  • Postpartum thyroiditis: This is one of the causes of thyroid in females. A woman having given birth, or having miscarried or aborted a pregnancy may experience this condition anytime in the year after it happens. This is usually a temporary condition. 

Risk Factors for Thyroid Diseases 

Thyroid diseases may occur in anyone irrespective of gender and age. Females are more likely to have thyroid diseases than males. A person may be at a greater risk of developing thyroid diseases if they are exposed to certain risk factors like:

  • Having a family history of thyroid problems
  • Aged more than 60 years
  • Taking iodine medications
  • Having had previous thyroid conditions that required performing surgical or radiation procedures in the thyroid gland
  • Having certain health conditions such as pernicious anaemia, rheumatoid arthritis, Type-1 diabetes, lupus, Turner’s syndrome, etc.

Symptoms of Thyroid Diseases

There may be a range of thyroid symptoms in female and male patients. Sometimes, thyroid disease symptoms can be quite similar to the other medical conditions or even some symptoms that appear with general ageing. Thus, thyroid symptoms often go unnoticed or patients are unable to point out the difference between gradual ageing and thyroid diseases. 

Symptoms of thyroid diseases may vary depending on the type of thyroid disease that a person may have– hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. 

Hyperthyroidism symptoms in males and females may include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Experiencing anxiety, nervousness, or irritability
  • Having an enlarged thyroid gland or goitre
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing vision problems or eye problems 
  • Having weakness in the muscles or muscle tremors
  • Experiencing irregular menstrual cycle or complete absence of menstrual cycle
  • Increased sensitivity to heat

Hypothyroidism symptoms in patients may include:

  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Having a hoarse voice
  • Experiencing forgetfulness
  • Having dry and coarse hair
  • Experiencing heavy and heavy menstruation
  • Decreased tolerance towards cold

Treatment of Thyroid Diseases

The primary goal of thyroid treatment typically involves bringing thyroid hormone levels back to normal. Thyroid diseases can be treated using different methods and specific treatments may depend on the actual cause of thyroid disease. Usually, extensive diagnostic investigation may be required for understanding thyroid hormone levels which may further warrant specific testing for a medical condition.

Hyperthyroidism treatment or high levels of thyroid hormones may be treated in the following ways:

  • Anti-thyroid medications to prevent overproduction of thyroid hormones.
  • Radioactive iodine is a kind of treatment that damages thyroid cells to prevent the production of high levels of thyroid hormones.
  • Beta blockers may be recommended to help manage symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
  • A surgery called thyroidectomy may be required to remove a part of the thyroid. 

Hypothyroidism treatment in males and females mainly includes thyroid replacement medication, which is a synthetic drug administration to add thyroid hormones into the body. Through this treatment, people may be able to manage thyroid disease and continue to live a normal life.

Consult the best thyroid specialist in Hyderabad if you have symptoms of thyroid diseases (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) for complete diagnosis and early treatment of thyroid diseases to manage them properly and lead a better quality of life.

FAQs 

  • Does hypothyroidism cause weight gain?

Hypothyroidism symptoms in men or in women may lead to weight gain. 

  • Can thyroid problems cause eye problems?

Hyperthyroidism can cause vision problems or eye problems such as protruding eyes in some cases.

  • What causes high thyroid levels?

 Hyperthyroidism or high levels of thyroid hormones may be caused by a number of conditions including Graves’ disease, toxic multinodular goitre, thyroiditis, excessive exposure to iodine, or even due to cancer or malfunctioning in thyroid.