The thyroid is a small gland located at the base of the neck just below the centre of your throat. The thyroid gland manufactures hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism and plays a role in many other functions in the body. When your thyroid is underproducing or overproducing it can cause symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, and more. Here are common thyroid problems, their causes, and treatment options.
The thyroid gland and the hormones it produces play a role in a variety of functions in the body including:
- Metabolism (how your body uses energy)
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
- Brain development
- Mental activity
- Skin and bone maintenance
There are four common issues associated with the thyroid.
Hyperthyroidism: occurs when your body produces too much thyroid hormone.
Hypothyroidism: occurs when your body produces too little thyroid hormone.
Thyroiditis: occurs when there’s an inflammation/swelling of the thyroid gland. This lowers the amount of hormones your thyroid produces.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: occurs when your body mistakenly attacks and slowly destroys your thyroid gland and its ability to produce hormones. Is the most common form of hypothyroidism. There’s no known cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
This refers to the condition where an overactive thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. It affects about 1-3% of people and is more common in women.
Hyperthyroidism is caused by:
- Thyroid gland inflammation
- Too much iodine intake
- Taking too much thyroid hormone medication
- Overactive thyroid nodules
- Noncancerous pituitary gland tumour
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Racing heart rate
- Increased sweating
- Trouble sleeping
- Think skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Frequent bowel movements
- Bulging eyes (in Grave’s disease)
Diagnosis and treatment
A blood test is required to measure the levels of thyroid hormone in your blood. A doctor can also give you radioactive iodine by mouth or injection to measure how much of it your thyroid gland takes up. Treatment options to slow or stop hormone production include:
- Radioactive iodine treatment
- Anti-thyroid medication
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland is underactive producing less hormones than your body needs.
- Surgery where a damaged thyroid gland is removed
- Damage from radiation treatment
- You’re born with the condition (congenital hypothyroidism)
- Pituitary gland disorders or hypothalamus disorders
- Medications including heart medications, cancer medication, and bipolar medications
You’re also more likely to develop it if you have celiac disease, type 1 or 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus.
- The symptoms of too little thyroid production include:
- Dry skin and hair
- Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Memory problems
- Weight gain
- Weakness or muscle and joint pain
- Slow heart rate
- Heavy and irregular menstruation
- Fertility problems
Diagnosis and treatment
Blood tests and imaging tests are used to measure thyroid and hormone levels and test thyroid function. The primary treatment is taking medication in the form of thyroid hormone pills.
Tips for a healthy thyroid
Here are some things you can do for a healthier thyroid:
- Limit your consumption of ultra-processed foods.
- Consume enough iron. Foods rich in iron include spinach, broccoli, legumes, pumpkin seeds, turkey, liver and other organ meats, shellfish, and fish. 7 Dangers Of Iron Deficiency
- Consider taking a selenium supplement. Selenium is a trace mineral your body needs to activate the thyroid hormone.
Most of the time thyroid issues are not serious. You should consider speaking to a doctor if you:
- Feel a nodule or lump on either side of your larynx (voice box)
- Experience sudden weight loss or gain not linked to change in diet or activity level
- Constantly feel very hot or very cold
- Experience mood changes such as depression, anxiety, or nervousness
- Feel a sense of significant fatigue.
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