Is thyroid a disease? This is one of the common questions that people who are not aware of the condition often think about. And this question is obvious since thyroid disease is often termed as thyroid – the organ it is associated with. Such lack of knowledge and awareness is one reason why this thyroid disease has affected millions of people across the world.
While this disease affects both men and women irrespective of their gender, it is more prevalent in older women. In fact, some types of thyroid are 10 times more common in women than in men. With that data, we have taken the time to bring you everything you need to know about this disease.
From its symptoms and types to causes and treatment, this article contains all the basic things you need to know to deal with thyroid problems in a better way. Let us first begin by telling you what exactly is thyroid.
What is Thyroid?
Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is present at the base of your neck. Its main role is to produce thyroid hormone that is responsible for controlling your body’s metabolism. This includes crucial functions like how fast you burn your calories or how fast your heartbeats.
When the thyroid does not perform its function of producing the hormone properly, it affects the whole body. This is when you develop thyroid disease. However, instead of calling it that, people prefer calling it just thyroid or refer to the thyroid types you experience.
Mainly there are two thyroid types:
- Hyperthyroidism: This type of thyroid disease refers to a condition when your body produces thyroid hormone in excess. It speeds up your body’s metabolism and other body functions.
- Hypothyroidism: This type of thyroid disease refers to a condition when your body produces thyroid hormone in extremely low quantity. It is also known as the underactive thyroid and it slows down the body’s metabolism.
Both of these thyroid types are serious and must be treated as soon as they are diagnosed. Let us now learn how you can identify if you have a thyroid or not.
What Are The Risk Factors?
While thyroid can affect anyone – men, women, babies, teenagers, or older people. But it is associated with some risk factors. Your chances of having a thyroid problem are higher if you have:
- Older than 60, especially women
- Family history of thyroid
- Medical history of pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and Turner syndrome
- Certain medications
- Had treatment for a past thyroid condition or cancer
Thyroid Symptoms To Look For
Since there are various types of the thyroid, symptoms also differ from patient to patient. However, there are some common thyroid symptoms you should be wary of. Below we have jotted down these symptoms as per hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Trouble in sleeping
- Weight loss
- Anxiety, nervousness, or irritability
- Enlarged thyroid gland or a goiter
- Weak muscles and tremors
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Sensitivity to heat
- Vision problems or eye irritation
Symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Weight gain
- Memory issues
- Frequent and heavy menstrual periods
- Dry and coarse hair
- Changes in voice, especially hoarseness
- Intolerance to cold temperatures
If you or any of your loved ones experience any of the thyroid symptoms mentioned above, the best thing to do is consult a doctor and take a thyroid test.
What Are The Common Thyroid Causes?
Just like symptoms, thyroid causes are also different for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Here are some conditions that may be the cause behind hypothyroidism:
- Thyroiditis: In this condition, the thyroid gland swells and leads to lower production of thyroid hormones.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: This is an inherited condition in which the body’s cells attack and damage the thyroid.
- Postpartum thyroiditis: As the name suggests, this condition occurs in women after childbirth.
- Iodine deficiency: Iodine helps in the production of thyroid hormones and its deficiency impacts thyroid function.
- A non-functioning thyroid gland: Some infants do not have a properly working thyroid gland. If left untreated, it can lead to hypothyroidism.
Causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Graves’ disease: This condition can make the thyroid gland overactive and produce too much hormone.
- Nodules: Hyperthyroidism can be caused by nodules that are overactive within the gland.
- Thyroiditis: In thyroiditis, the thyroid starts releasing the stored hormones.
- Excessive iodine: Having too much iodine can lead to the overproduction of thyroid hormones.
Diagnosis of Thyroid Disease
Just symptoms are not enough to decide whether you have thyroid disease or not. So, consult a nearby doctor to get the diagnosis done. Thanks to technology, you can also consult doctor online and even take a thyroid test at home. Here is what you can expect during the diagnosis:
- Physical Exam or Medical History: Before conducting any thyroid test, the doctor asks you about your health history or if any of your family members have had it before. He or she may also ask for a physical exam and check for thyroid nodules in the neck.
- Blood tests: Depending on your symptoms, you will require to take a simple diagnostic test to test the thyroid normal range in your blood. You can also take this thyroid test at home.
- Thyroid scan. In this thyroid test, the doctors scan a radioiodine dose that they give to you via the mouth. They use a special camera to see the pattern of iodine uptake in the thyroid.
- Thyroid ultrasound: The doctors use sound waves to create internal pictures of the thyroid gland to detect the type of nodule you have and its size. This is also helpful in detecting thyroid cancer.
Just like a PCOD test can help you control your polycystic ovaries, a timely diagnosis of the thyroid gland can make a huge difference in the treatment. So, make sure you take the step at the right time and reduce your risks for later life.
What are the thyroid treatment options available?
The main motive of your thyroid treatment is to bring the hormone production level to the normal range. It can be done via simple things like following a thyroid diet or even thyroid medication to even going through surgery. It all depends on the type and severity of your condition.
Here are the common treatment methods that the doctors may prefer:
- Lifestyle Changes: As basic as it sounds, the thyroid can be controlled through simple lifestyle changes. For instance, you can consult the best nutritionist to follow a thyroid diet. Other changes include regular exercise and yoga.
- Thyroid Medication: The doctors also prescribe various types of thyroid medication to prevent the over and underproduction of thyroid hormones. They also reduce any damage to the gland and keep it healthy.
- Surgery: In some cases, the doctors may suggest removing the thyroid gland via thyroidectomy. However, you will need thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of your life.
Done reading? We are sure that you now have the answer to “is thyroid a disease”. It is time to put this knowledge to use and tell others to be aware of such diseases. To know more about it, do consult an experienced doctor. He or she can also help you learn how to keep your thyroid healthy.