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Thyroid Disease - Prevention and Treatment

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Thyroid disease is a medical condition in which the thyroid does not produce the right amount of thyroid hormone. Read further to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shaikh Sadaf

Published At February 8, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 8, 2023

Introduction:

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ found on the base of the neck. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones which travel through the blood to all body parts. When the thyroid makes too less or too much thyroid hormone, then it is called thyroid disease. If the body makes excessive thyroid hormone, it is known as hyperthyroidism. When the body makes too less thyroid hormone, it is known as hypothyroidism. Thyroid diseases are easily manageable. Medication help and lifestyle changes help to lead a normal life. Regular physical exercise is important to stay healthy and fit.

What Is Thyroid Disease?

The thyroid basically secretes hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The main hormone is thyroxine, T4, which is necessary for growth and development. The thyroid equally affects both males and females. When there is a deficiency of thyroxine hormone, it is called hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's disease. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, and muscle stiffness. The other disease resulting from an increase in thyroxine hormone is hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include feeling hot, weight loss, tremors, sweating, and enlarged thyroid. The most common symptoms seen in men with thyroid dysfunction are low sexual drive, low testosterone secretion, and baldness.

What Are the Causes of Thyroid Disease?

There are two types of thyroid disease; hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The condition that leads to hypothyroidism are as follows:

  • Thyroiditis: It refers to inflammation of the thyroid gland and lowers the amount of hormones produced by the thyroid gland.

  • Hashimoto Thyroiditis: It is an inherited painless autoimmune disease in which the body attacks and damages its own thyroid cells.

  • Postpartum Thyroiditis: It is a temporary condition that occurs in women after childbirth.

  • Iodine Deficiency: Iodine is utilized by the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone.

Conditions that lead to hyperthyroidism include:

  • Graves Disease: This condition involves excessive hormone production from the thyroid gland. This condition is also known as diffuse toxic goiter.

  • Nodules: Hyperthyroidism can be caused by the production of nodules that overreact within the thyroid gland. A single nodule is known as a toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodule, while a gland consisting of several nodules is called a toxic multinodular goiter.

  • Thyroiditis: This condition can be either painful or cannot be felt. It lasts for weeks to months.

  • Excessive Iodine: The presence of excessive iodine in the body can produce more thyroid hormone.

What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Disease?

The various symptoms of thyroid disease are as follows:

  • Experiencing anxiety, irritability, and nervousness.

  • Disturbed sleep.

  • Sudden weight gain or loss.

  • Enlarged thyroid gland.

  • Muscle weakness or tremor.

  • Irregular menstrual period.

  • Feeling sensitive to heat.

  • Eye irritation or vision problems.

  • Feeling tired.

  • Having dry and coarse hair.

  • Experiencing intolerance to cold temperatures.

  • Muscle cramp.

  • Slow heart rate.

  • Constipation.

  • Depressed mood.

  • Memory difficulty.

  • Diarrhea (refers to frequent loose, watery stools more than two times a day).

  • Anxiety.

  • Excessive sweating.

  • Bloating.

  • Puffy face.

  • Hoarse voice.

Who Is Mostly Affected by Thyroid Disease?

Thyroid disease can affect men, women, teenagers, infants, and elders. It is a very common disorder that affects 20 million. Women are five to eight times more likely to be affected by thyroid disease.

How Does Thyroid Hormone Function?

Thyroid hormone is released from the gland and travels through the bloodstream to the body’s cells. They help to control the growth and structure of bones. Thyroid hormones consist of T3, T4, and calcitonin. T3 helps to control functions such as heart rate, growth, and body temperature. T4 helps to maintain the calories of the body. Calcitonin helps to regulate calcium levels in the blood.

How to Diagnose Thyroid Disease?

Thyroid disease can be diagnosed in the following ways such as:

  • Physical test.

  • Blood test.

  • Imaging tests.

Physical Exam: A thorough clinical examination of the thyroid gland is necessary to diagnose any thyroid disorder. The doctor will palpate the thyroid gland to check for any abnormalities like swelling, growth, or pain. Detailed patient history is also crucial for a conclusive diagnosis.

Blood Test: Thyroid disorders can be best diagnosed by a blood test. It helps to determine the functioning of thyroid hormone in the blood. The test can be done by taking blood from the vein present in the arm. The thyroid blood test can be used to determine the conditions of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is produced in the pituitary gland and helps in the regulation of thyroid hormones such as T4 and T3 through the bloodstream. T4 (thyroxine) test is done for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism to monitor thyroid disorder treatment. T3 (triiodothyronine) helps to diagnose hyperthyroidism. Low levels of T3 can be seen in hypothyroidism. Thyroid antibodies, calcitonin, and thyroglobulin are additional blood tests.

Imaging Tests: These can be done by using ultrasound which is a diagnostic procedure that transmits high-frequency sound waves. The echoes are recorded in the form of photographic images. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Imaging tests like CT (computed tomography) scans and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can also be done to study the structure and anatomy of the thyroid gland. In the case of thyroid nodules, inflammation, goiter, or thyroid cancer, these high-sensitivity imaging techniques can help establish a conclusive diagnosis.

How to Treat Thyroid Disease?

Thyroid disease can be treated by various treatment options such as:

  • Antithyroid Drugs: These medications are used to stop the thyroid from producing excessive thyroid hormones.

  • Radioactive Iodine: This treatment damages the thyroid cells in order to prevent them from producing high levels of thyroid hormone.

  • Beta Blockers: They help control the symptoms and do not increase the amount of thyroid hormone.

  • Surgery: Thyroid surgery, such as thyroidectomy, can be done for the removal of the thyroid gland. Thyroid replacement drugs can also be used as a man-made way to the addition of thyroid hormone back to the body. The drug commonly used for thyroid replacement is levothyroxine. "Thyroid hormone replacement therapy" in case of hypothyroidism.

  • Iodine Supplements: Such as fish, dairy products, and seaweeds can be consumed in case of iodine deficiency.

How to Prevent Thyroid Disorders?

Thyroid disorder can be prevented in the following ways. Some auto-immune thyroid conditions can not be prevented.

  • Avoiding processed food as it contains a lot of chemicals that can alter thyroid hormone production.

  • Soy intake should be avoided as it alters hormone production.

  • Smoking should be discontinued as the toxin released during smoking can lead to a sensitive thyroid gland that causes thyroid disease.

  • Stress is one of the major reasons for many health disorders, including thyroid disease.

Conclusion:

Thyroid disease is sometimes a life-long medical condition that can be managed. The treatment often involves the intake of daily medications. The healthcare provider monitors the treatment and makes adjustments over time. A person can live a normal life, even with thyroid disease. Regular exercise and an adequate diet are important parts of a healthy lifestyle.

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Dr. Shaikh Sadaf
Dr. Shaikh Sadaf

Endocrinology

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