Endocrine Diseases Data Verified

Be Aware of the Thyroid!

Written by
Dr. Vasantha. K. S
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Aug 13, 2018 and last reviewed on Oct 06, 2022   -  7 min read


The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in front of your neck. Along with the other glands of the endocrine system, it regulates the metabolic functions of the body by releasing thyroid hormones. This article talks about the normal functions of the thyroid as well as common thyroid disorders and their symptoms and treatments.

Be Aware of the Thyroid!

Overview of Thyroid

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in front of your neck. Along with the other glands of the endocrine system, it regulates the metabolic functions of the body by releasing thyroid hormones into the bloodstream.

Thyroid disorders can occur when there is too much or too less of thyroid hormone being produced by the gland. While too less of the hormones can slow down the metabolism, an excess of hormones can speed up the metabolism a lot. Although the hormonal imbalance causes a lot of disturbance, they can be well managed with medications.


Normal Functions of the Thyroid

The thyroid gland absorbs iodine from our diet and combines it with an amino acid known as Tyrosine to make the thyroid hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). They are involved in regulating a variety of bodily functions such as:

  • Body temperature.
  • Body metabolism.
  • Body weight.
  • Growth.
  • Brain development.
  • Heart rate.
  • Digestion.
  • Energy levels.
  • Muscle control.
  • Mood.
  • Bone maintenance.

Normal Range of Thyroid

Normal range of thyroid

Image Source : Mamma Health

Thyroid Disorders

Common disorders of the thyroid involve either over or under stimulation of the gland. Hence, depending on the type of disorder, the symptoms and treatment vary. The most common disorders of the thyroid include:

  1. Hyperthyroidism.
  2. Hypothyroidism.
  3. Goiter.
  4. Thyroid nodules.
  5. Graves' disease.

1. Hyperthyroidism

This is a disorder of the thyroid where the gland is overactive. In this condition, there is an overproduction of thyroid hormone. It is more common in women and those over 60 years old. An autoimmune disease known as Grave's disease is the most common cause, but there may be other reasons as well.


  • Graves' disease.
  • Toxic nodular goiter.
  • Thyroiditis.
  • Consuming more than recommended quantity of iodine.
  • Taking a higher dose of synthetic thyroid hormone.


  • Restlessness.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Irritability.
  • Sweating.
  • Weight loss.
  • Tremors.
  • Thinning of skin, hair, and nails.


  • The doctor will recommend blood tests such as T4 and TSH. But, the values that are accepted to fall in the normal range vary from one doctor to another. So, it is not wise to start medications based on the blood test findings alone.
  • So, apart from blood tests, the doctor will also conduct a physical examination to palpate the thyroid gland and feel for abnormal changes in texture. He will take into account your symptoms as well. Then, an ultrasound may or may not be required to confirm the diagnosis.


  • Antithyroid drugs: These drugs block the synthesis of the thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. Different drugs are used commonly in different parts of the world. Most common antithyroid drugs include Carbimazole, Methimazole, and Propylthiouracil.
  • Radioactive iodine: This therapy is suggested for those who cannot take medications or surgery. In this, a single dose of Iodine containing a radiation is given in the form of a capsule. Once it is swallowed, the thyroid glands take up the iodine, just like they do from food sources. But, since they contain a small amount of radiation, the thyroid cells get destroyed and they no longer produce as much iodine.
  • Surgery: Depending on the reason for surgery, and cause of the problem, the entire thyroid gland or a portion of it would be removed surgically. In case a part of the gland is being removed, the rest of the gland takes over the functioning of the gland. If the entire gland is removed, the patient will have to take synthetic thyroid hormone replacement for the rest of his life.

2. Hypothyroidism

In this condition, the thyroid gland is underactive and there is an underproduction of thyroid hormone.


  • Hashimoto's disease: It is a genetically inherited autoimmune condition where the body's defense cells confuse the healthy thyroid cells to be foreign bodies and attack them causing an inflammation of the thyroid gland. This reduces the thyroid function.
  • Thyroid surgery for hyperthyroidism: In person's with hyperthyroidism, treatments such as radioactive iodine or thyroid removal surgery is performed to lower the thyroid functioning. This may sometimes cause the thyroid function to get permanently low leading to hypothyroidism.
  • Radiation damage: Radiation therapy, as well as some medications used to treat certain types of cancer, can harm the thyroid cells and slow down the thyroid hormone production.


  • Tiredness.
  • Dry skin.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Depression.
  • Cold intolerance.
  • Weight gain.
  • Fatigue.


  • Blood tests such as T3, T4, and TSH would be ordered by the doctor to confirm the diagnosis of hypothyroidism if the patient presents with the above-mentioned common symptoms. In the case of hypothyroidism, there would be elevated levels of TSH and low levels of T3 and T4. So, the diagnosis is made based on the symptoms and blood test findings.


  • Synthetic thyroid hormone pills: The synthetic form of the hormone is known as Levothyroxine. Levothyroxine medicine is prescribed in different strengths according to the individual's need. It reverses the signs and symptoms of the disease. It is it to be taken lifelong. But, it is important to follow up with your treating doctor at regular intervals as the dosage will need to be adjusted from time to time.

3. Goiter

Goiter is a non-cancerous, abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. It is more common in women than in men. It is of different types based on the cause.


  • Iodine deficiency: Iodine is necessary for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Lack of sufficient iodine in the diet causes thyroxine levels to go down and TSH to rise.
  • Iodine excess: Excess of iodine from seafood, table salt, etc., can also ironically cause symptoms similar to iodine deficiency goiter.


  • Neck swelling.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Swallowing difficulty.
  • Cough.
  • Hoarseness of voice.


  • Physical examination: The doctor may visualize or palpate a lump, nodule or swelling in the front of the neck during a routine examination. He may ask you to make swallowing actions if he suspects a swelling,
  • Blood test for thyroid hormones and TSH: A goiter may be associated with an overactive or underactive thyroid, and the thyroid hormone and TSH levels will vary accordingly.
  • Ultrasound of thyroid: An ultrasound uses sound waves to see the image of the thyroid gland on a screen. It may be ordered by the doctor if the doctor feels a lump on the thyroid or if the blood test findings are abnormal.


  • Radioactive iodine: In case of overactive thyroid, you will be asked to take radioactive iodine orally. The thyroid cells have an affinity for iodine and take up the iodine into the cells. The radioactive iodine destroys the thyroid cells and shrinks the gland in size. Depending on the extent of your symptoms and the swelling, the doctor may decide the dosage. This is now a more preferred treatment method than conventional surgery due to its safety and convenience.
  • Surgery: Some goiters may be so large they can cause a difficulty with breathing and swallowing. Then surgery becomes necessary. The procedure may involve the removal of a portion or the entire gland depending on the individual case.

4. Thyroid nodules

Thyroid nodules are small, harmless, benign overgrowths that can develop on the thyroid gland. They can be solid or fluid-filled. They are mostly asymptomatic. Sometimes, some symptoms may develop such as the following.


  • Iodine deficiency: Low dietary intake of iodine can cause nodular enlargement within the thyroid gland. Although only a small quantity of iodine is required by the body, it is very important for the proper functioning of the gland and production of hormones.
  • Hashimoto's disease: It is an autoimmune disease where the body's protective cells turn against the body's own normal thyroid cells and destroy them. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is associated with an increased risk of development of thyroid nodules.


  • Neck swelling.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Swallowing difficulty.
  • Throat pain.


  • Physical examination: A thyroid nodule may be felt by the doctor by palpating outside your throat. He may ask you to make swallowing actions as that will make the nodule move more prominently.
  • Ultrasound of thyroid: This is the best method to visualize the thyroid nodules on the screen. This will give us a picture of the number, size, and location of the nodules and also help differentiate them from cysts and cancerous swellings.
  • Thyroid scan: Sometimes, if an ultrasound is not enough, a thyroid scan may be recommended where radioactive iodine is injected into a vein in your arm. After a while, a clear image is visible on a monitor, where it is possible to distinguish the nodules from normal cells as they take up more iodine than the surrounding cells. It is possible to differentiate between hot nodules (non-cancerous), as well as cold nodules (cancerous) by this test.
  • FNAC (fine needle aspiration cytology): It is a type of biopsy where a small sample of cells is removed from the thyroid gland with the help of a needle. It is then sent away to a laboratory to be observed under a microscope to rule out any cancerous changes.


Sometimes, no treatment is required. If symptoms are present, one of the following may be required.

  • Radioactive iodine.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Surgery.

5. Graves' disease

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune cells mistake the thyroid cells to be foreign substances and attack them, causing overproduction of thyroid hormones.


  • Hereditary.
  • Stress.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Smoking.


  • Bulged eyes are a prominent feature.
  • Rest of the symptoms are the same as hyperthyroidism.


  • Physical examination.
  • T4 and TSH.
  • Radioactive iodine test.


There is no cure for Graves' disease. Medicines cannot stop the immune system from continuing to attack the gland. But, symptoms can be managed with certain medications.

  • Antithyroid medicines.
  • Radioactive iodine.
  • Beta blockers.
  • Surgery.

Know the Facts

Thyroid Disease

For more information consult a thyroid specialist online -->


Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Signs of Thyroid imbalances in Females?

The signs of thyroid imbalances in females are:
- Digestion issues, feeling bloated, and constipation.
- Changes in the skin and hair, rough skin, and coarse hair or hair loss.
- Mood swings.
- Reproductive problems or changes in the menstrual cycle.
- Irregular periods.
- Intolerance to cold.
- Cognitive difficulties.
- Fatigue.
- Muscle aches and cramps.
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
- Weakness.
- Poor appetite.
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland).


How to Identify If You Have Thyroid Issues?

You might have thyroid issues if you have the following symptoms:
- Feeling fatigued even after sleeping for 8 to 10 hours at night.
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
- Mood issues like anxiety, mood swings, or depression.
- Hormone imbalances such as PMS (premenstrual syndrome), infertility, irregular periods, and low sex drive.
- Muscle pain, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or tendonitis.
- Intolerance to cold.
- Dry or cracking skin, excessive hair loss, and brittle nails.
- Constipation.
- Mind issues such as poor concentration, brain fog, or poor memory.
- Neck swelling.
- Snoring.
- Hoarse voice.


How Can the Thyroid Problem Affect the Body?

Imbalances in the thyroid hormones can affect the heartbeat's force and speed, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels by worsening the heart's health. When the thyroid level drops down, it can lead to hypothyroidism that can affect the heart and circulatory system in many ways. Lower production of thyroid hormone can also slow down the heart rate. It can also affect the central and peripheral nervous system's development and function and cause peripheral neuropathy.


What Is the Cause of Thyroid Problems?

The thyroid problems can be caused by:
- Iodine deficiency.
- Autoimmune diseases like Graves' disease or Hashimoto's disease.
- Inflammation, which is caused by a virus or bacteria.
- Nodules, or non-cancerous lumps.
- Cancerous tumors.
- Specific medical treatments, including thyroid surgery, radiation therapy, and some medicines
- Genetic disorders.
- Hardly, pregnancy can cause thyroid problems that can cause problems to the mother and baby, including premature birth, miscarriage, preeclampsia, and bleeding after childbirth.


How to Self-Check the Thyroid?

The thyroid can be self-checked by standing in front of a mirror to check the base of the neck. Now tip your head back and drink water. As you swallow the water, look at your neck and check for any bulges or protrusions in the area where you swallow, and do not confuse this with your Adam's apple. Then use your hands and slowly feel the area over your thyroid; if you feel any lumps or bulges in your throat, make an appointment with your physician.


What Type of Foods Are Harmful to the thyroid?

The foods which are harmful to the thyroid and may impair the normal functioning of the thyroid gland are:
- Soy-based foods like tofu, edamame beans, tempeh, soy milk, etc.
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, cabbage, etc.
- Certain fruits like peaches, pears, and strawberries.
- Beverages like coffee, green tea, and alcohol may irritate your thyroid gland.


Can Thyroid Disease Be Cured?

We cannot cure thyroid disease, but it can be treated successfully with medications by maintaining the thyroid hormone's normal level. It is essential to be frequently on medication to maintain a normal thyroid state.


Which Drink Is Best for the Thyroid Gland?

It is necessary for people suffering from thyroid problems to keep a check on their diet and the kind of water they drink, impacting their thyroid health. Drinks like reverse osmosis water, spring water, and cranberry juices are good for thyroid health.


Which Vitamins Help in the Proper Functioning of the Thyroid Gland?

The vitamins which help in the proper functioning of the thyroid gland are:
- B1 or Thiamine: It helps to maintain an overactive thyroid gland.
- Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin: It suppresses thyroid functioning.
- Vitamin B3 or Niacin: It is needed to keep the body's cells working.
- Vitamin D: It improves thyroid TSH levels.
- Vitamin A: It helps in T4 synthesis.


What Are the Early Warning Symptoms of Thyroid Problems?

The early warning symptoms of thyroid problems which should not be ignored are:
- Fatigue.
- Weight gain.
- Recurring sickness.
- Loss of coordination.
- Brain fog.
- Anxiety or depression.


What Will Happen If Hypothyroidism Is Left Untreated?

If hypothyroidism is left untreated, it can lead to many complications. The thyroid hormone level can impact cardiovascular health, lung function, and abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland, known as goiter. They may lead to heart problems like a slow pulse, a weakened pulse, an irregular heartbeat, infertility, nerve injury, and in severe cases, coma and death.


How Can Thyroid Affect Your Sleep?

Thyroid imbalances can affect your sleep:
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can cause difficulty sleeping due to nervousness or irritability, muscle weakness, night sweats, frequent urges to urinate, and constant feelings of tiredness.
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) patients often experience intolerance to cold at night and muscle or joint pain that disrupts their sleep. It can also cause hypersomnia or an uncontrollable need to sleep.


What Should Be the Level of Thyroid Hormone during Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the target TSH level, as recommended by the American Thyroid Association, is 0.3-3.0 mIU/L, T3 ranges from 80 to 200 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), and T4 ranges between 4.5 and 11.7 mcg/dL. Still, the laboratory or doctor might use a slightly different range. When both T3 and T4 are very low, it is considered to be hypothyroidism. Make sure that the TSH levels are monitored and reviewed every six weeks throughout the pregnancy.


Is That Possible to Have a Healthy Pregnancy with Hypothyroidism?

You cannot have a healthy pregnancy if you suffer from hypothyroidism; therefore, it is essential to be adequately treated. Uncontrolled hypothyroidism of the mother has a long-term effect on children. The body needs more thyroid hormones during pregnancy, and without proper treatment, hypothyroidism during pregnancy can cause severe problems like:
- Miscarriage.
- Preeclampsia.
- Placental problems, including placental abruption.
- Premature birth.
- Having a low-birth-weight baby.


Can a Thyroid Disorder Transfer from the mother to the baby?

There is no clear idea that the baby will acquire the mother's thyroid problem. Still, the mother's uncontrolled thyroid issues can lead to some congenital disabilities in the newborn baby. This is because the fetus depends only on the mother for thyroid hormones in the initial few months of pregnancy. When the child does not receive sufficient thyroid hormone from the mother, it will impair the fetus's normal brain development.

Last reviewed at:
06 Oct 2022  -  7 min read


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