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Thyroid Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, is the master gland of metabolism. The gland is responsible for functions such as regulating your appetite, energy levels and even your body temperature. The thyroid is the largest endocrine gland in the body and produces two types of hormones T3 and T4 that controls the rate at which your body burns energy and responds to stress hormones [1] . Another hormone called calcitonin is also produced, which help regulate the calcium storage in your body.

These hormones have an impact on the metabolic processes in the body. The pituitary gland (a tiny organ found at the base of the brain) releases thyroid stimulating hormones to regulate the production of thyroid hormones.

When your thyroid doesn't function properly, the adverse effects are reflected on your health. If undiagnosed, the thyroid can lead to health problems such as weight gain, anxiety, hair loss, muscle pain, sexual dysfunction, depression and infertility, among others [2] .

Thyroid disorders occur when the thyroid gland either produces excess or fewer thyroid hormones which are called hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism respectively [3] . That is, any disruption in the functioning of the gland can develop hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and other thyroid-related diseases.

More than 60 per cent of people, especially women suffer from a thyroid problem. The rest 40 per cent are unaware of the signs, as it can be difficult to distinguish the symptoms [4] .

Types Of Thyroid Disorders

The specific kinds of thyroid disorders are as follows [5] :

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Goitre
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Thyroid cancer

How Your Hands Can Indicate Thyroid Problem?

Causes Of Thyroid Disorders

1. Hypothyroidism

Caused by the production of an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone, hypothyroidism is caused due to the issues pertaining to your thyroid gland, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus [6] . The most common causes of hypothyroidism are Hashimoto's thyroiditis, thyroid hormone resistance, inflammation of the thyroid, acute thyroiditis and post-partum thyroiditis.

2. Hyperthyroidism

This disorder is caused due to excessive production of thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism is less common in comparison to hypothyroidism. The most common causes of the disorder are Gaves' disease, toxic multinodular goitre, thyroid nodules that over-express thyroid hormone (known as hot nodules) and excessive iodine consumption [7] .

3. Goitre

This type of thyroid disorder is the enlargement of the thyroid gland. Goitre is not a disease as of such but is associated with the other thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism [8] .

4. Thyroid nodules

These are abnormal masses that are developed within the thyroid and can be caused due to benign cysts and benign tumours. In rare cases, it can be caused by cancer of the thyroid as well. The thyroid nodules can be multiple or single and vary in size [8] .

5. Thyroid cancer

Increasingly common in women below the age of 55, than in men, thyroid cancer is classified into different groups. The type of cancer depends upon the cell type within the thyroid [9] .

Symptoms Of Thyroid Disorders

The early signs of hypothyroidism in adults are as follows:

  • Exhaustion
  • Poor tolerance to cold temperatures
  • Constipation
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

The later signs of hypothyroidism are as follows [10] :

  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Fluid retention
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Memory problems
  • Slow heart rate
  • Depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor appetite
  • Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding in women
  • Coma, in severe cases

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are as follows [11] :

  • Intolerance for heat
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Fast heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sweating
  • Increase in bowel movements
  • Problems with concentration
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Thinning of skin
  • Bulging eyes
  • Brittle nails and hair

An individual with goitre will have swelling or tightness in the neck, difficulties breathing or swallowing, coughing or wheezing and hoarseness of voice [12] . A person suffering from Grave's disease can face hand tremors, excessive sweating, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and frequent bowel movements [13] .

Likewise, a person with thyroid nodules can have symptoms such as high pulse rate, nervousness, clammy skin, tremors, weight loss and increased appetite. It can also cause hair loss, cold intolerance, dry skin and fatigue [14] .

Diagnosis Of Thyroid Disorders

The doctor will begin with examining your medical history and check for symptoms surrounding your eye, skin and heart [15] .

Apart from that, the doctor will advise for blood tests which include the following [16] :

  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • Triiodothyronine (T3)
  • Free (T4)
  • TSH receptor antibody (TSI)
  • Antithyroid antibody (thyroperoxidase antibody)

A nuclear thyroid scan, thyroid ultrasound, fine-needle aspiration and computerized axial tomography (CT) scan will be carried out [17] .

Treatment For Thyroid Disorders

For hyperthyroidism, medications such as beta-blockers, propylthiouracil, methimazole and iodide are advised. Along with that, radioactive iodine therapy is advised as well [18] .

Honey And Nuts Home Remedy For Treating Thyroid

For hypothyroidism, medications such as L-thyroxine, triiodothyronine and thyroid extract or a natural thyroid hormone (pig thyroid gland) are used as the treatment methods [19] .

For thyroid nodules and goitre, if the thyroid function is abnormally high or low, the medications used for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are prescribed. If the functioning of your thyroid is stable but has thyroid nodules, you will be required to undergo a surgery or treatment to shrink the nodules [20] .

View Article References
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  17. [17] Langrock, C., Hebebrand, J., Radowksi, K., Hamelmann, E., Lücke, T., Holtmann, M., ... & Reinehr, T. (2018). Thyroid Hormone Status in Overweight Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.Hormone research in paediatrics,89(3), 150-156.
  18. [18] Walshaw, P. D., Gyulai, L., Bauer, M., Bauer, M. S., Calimlim, B., Sugar, C. A., & Whybrow, P. C. (2018). Adjunctive thyroid hormone treatment in rapid cycling bipolar disorder: A double‐blind placebo‐controlled trial of levothyroxine (L‐T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).Bipolar disorders,20(7), 594-603.
  19. [19] Fugger, G., Dold, M., Bartova, L., Kautzky, A., Souery, D., Mendlewicz, J., ... & Kasper, S. (2018). Comorbid thyroid disease in patients with major depressive disorder-results from the European Group for the Study of Resistant Depression (GSRD).European neuropsychopharmacology,28(6), 752-760.
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