The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located on the front part of the neck below the thyroid cartilage/Adam’s apple under the voice box. Thyroid Problems is one of the common health issues in the woman than men. Diseases of the thyroid gland can result in either production of too much (overactive thyroid disease or hyperthyroidism), too little (underactive thyroid disease or hypothyroidism) thyroid hormone, thyroid nodules, and goiter.
What is the Function of the Thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland plays a major role by secreting thyroid hormones to regulate the metabolism, growth, and development of the human body.
- Metabolic: It helps to regulate many body functions by constantly releasing a steady amount of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. If the body needs more energy in certain situations, Thyroid hormones increase the basal metabolic rate. They increase the absorption in the gut, generation, uptake by cells, and breakdown of glucose. They stimulate the breakdown of fats and increase the number of free fatty acids. Despite increasing free fatty acids, thyroid hormones decrease cholesterol levels.
- Cardiovascular: The hormones increase the rate and strength of the heartbeat. They increase the rate of breathing, intake, and consumption of oxygen, and increase the activity of mitochondria. Combined, these factors increase blood flow and the body’s temperature
- Developmental: They increase the growth rate of young people, and cells of the developing brain are a major target for the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Thyroid hormones play a particularly crucial role in brain maturation during fetal development and first few years of postnatal life.
Hyperthyroidism describes the excessive production of thyroid hormone, a less common condition than hypothyroidism.
- Fast heart rate
- Intolerance of heat & excess sweating
- Increase in bowel movements
- Increased sweating
- Unintentional weight loss
- Concentration problems
Some of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism are:
- Graves’ disease
- Excessive iodine consumption
- Toxic multinodular goiter
- Subacute thyroiditis
- Thyroid nodules that overexpress thyroid hormone, Pituitary gland malfunctions or cancerous growths in the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism results from the thyroid gland producing an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone. It can develop from problems within the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus.
- Fatigue, slow heart rate
- Dry skin
- Poor concentration or feeling mentally “foggy”
- Muscle and joint aches
- Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding in women
- Inability to tolerate the cold
- Weight gain
- Fluid retention
Some common causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Thyroiditis- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation of the thyroid gland), Ord’s thyroiditis, Acute thyroiditis etc
- Thyroid hormone resistance
- Other types of thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid), such as acute thyroiditis and postpartum thyroiditis
- Removal of the thyroid gland
- Euthyroid sick syndrome
- Lithium drug has also been implicated as a cause of hypothyroidism
Investigation & Diagnosis of Thyroid Problems:
Different types of tests are available that can be used to test the function of the thyroid, to identify the diseases, and for the success or failure of treatment. Blood tests, in general, aim to measure thyroid function or determine the cause of thyroid dysfunction. Thyroid function tests include blood tests including the measurement of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, as well as the measurement of TSH. They may reveal hyperthyroidism (high T3 and T4), hypothyroidism (low T3, T4), or subclinical hyperthyroidism (normal T3 and T4 with a low TSH). Sometimes TRH stimulation test, in which TRH is given and TSH levels are measured at 30 and 60-minutes after, may be conducted.
Ultrasound of the thyroid may be used to reveal whether structures are solid or filled with fluid, helping to differentiate between nodules and goiters and cysts. It may also help differentiate between malignant and benign lesions. A fine needle aspiration biopsy may be taken concurrently of thyroid tissue to determine the nature of a lesion. These biopsies are then sent for histopathology and cytology. CT scan of the thyroid plays an important role in the evaluation of thyroid cancer.
Treatment of Thyroid Problems:
- Medications can be given to replace the missing thyroid hormone in hypothyroidism. Synthetic thyroid hormone is given in pill form by mouth. When hyperthyroidism is present, medications can be used to decrease production of thyroid hormone. If hyperthyroidism is not controlled with medications, radioactive ablation can be performed.
- Thyroid surgery: Surgery can be used to remove a large goiter or a hyperfunctioning nodule within the gland. Surgery is necessary when there is a possibility of thyroid cancer.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation used to treat cancers of the head and neck can affect your thyroid gland and may lead to hypothyroidism.