Today, one of the most frequent topics of discussion these days is thyroid disease. This just goes to show how common this disease has become.
So, what exactly is thyroid disease? It is a set of disorders that affect your thyroid gland. This gland is located around your windpipe in the front of the neck and is responsible for the regulation of your metabolic processes. These processes include your body temperature, heart rate, your body’s ability to break down food and convert it into energy, among many.
The thyroid gland produces the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 using iodine from the food that you eat that are released into your bloodstream. Thyroid disease is a medical condition that prevents your thyroid gland from producing the correct amount of hormones that are essential for your body to function normally.
What are the different types of thyroid disease?
This gland is controlled by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus that are located in the brain. The two types of thyroid conditions are determined by their action and are known as:
- Hypothyroidism: This thyroid disease occurs when your thyroid gland produces less than a normal amount of thyroid hormones. This occurs due to issues with the functioning of your thyroid gland, hypothalamus, or pituitary gland.
- Hyperthyroidism: This thyroid disease occurs when there is excessive production of the thyroid hormone. In this case, your body uses up energy too quickly.
Out of the two types of thyroid, hyperthyroidism is less common.
How do you know if you have thyroid disease?
The two types of thyroid diseases have different symptoms. Here are the symptoms of thyroid problems associated with hypothyroidism:
- Constantly feeling tired.
- Gaining weight without trying.
- Lack of concentration and episodes of memory loss.
- Dry and brittle hair is accompanied by severe hair loss.
- Having a thick or hoarse voice.
- Inability to stand cold temperatures.
- One of the most common thyroid symptoms in females is having unusually heavy and frequent periods.
The symptoms of thyroid problems associated with hyperthyroidism are:
- Inability to sleep or broken sleep patterns.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Feeling nervous, irritable, or anxious without any trigger.
- Having a pronounced goitre or thyroid gland.
- Excessive sensitivity to heat.
- Muscular pains and tremors.
- Experiencing eye irritation or vision problems.
- The most common thyroid symptom in females is getting irregular periods or no periods at all.
What causes thyroid disease?
Both types of thyroid disease are caused due to different reasons.
Causes of hypothyroidism:
- Deficiency of iodine.
- A non-functioning thyroid gland since birth.
- Thyroiditis is one of the most common reasons for thyroid of this type. It lowers the number of hormones that your thyroid gland produces.
- The inherited and autoimmune condition of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Postpartum thyroiditis, which is usually a temporary condition.
Causes of hyperthyroidism:
- Having Graves disease that causes your thyroid gland to be overactive leading to thyroid disease.
- A common reason for thyroid of this type is when you have excessive iodine levels in your body. This may be due to consuming salty meals and dependence on cough syrups and heart medications.
- Overactive nodules also called toxic goiter.
How is thyroid disease diagnosed?
There are several tests that help in the diagnosis of thyroid disease. These are usually included in a full body test when you go for a routine examination:
- Blood test: This is the most common thyroid test that assesses the functioning of your thyroid gland. This is done to know if you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism or other underlying conditions like Graves disease, thyroiditis, Goiter, thyroid nodule, etc. This includes specific blood tests such as TSH, T4, FT4, T3, and FT3. Other blood tests include thyroid antibodies test, calcitonin, etc.
- Imaging tests: Your general physician may do a thyroid scan to look at your thyroid gland’s nodule, shape, and size. They may also do an ultrasound. This is especially beneficial for doing pregnant women health checkups since it doesn’t use any radiation.
What is the treatment for thyroid disease?
There is no thyroid cure but the condition can be managed
There are several lines of treatment that are used to bring your thyroid hormones to a normal level. Your treatment will depend on the severity and type of your thyroid disease and your age.
Treatment for hypothyroidism:
- The most widely-used treatment for hypothyroidism is a thyroid replacement medication and is used to add thyroid hormones back into your system.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism:
- Anti-thyroid drugs curtail the production of thyroid hormones.
- Beta-blockers to control the discomforting symptoms of thyroid disease.
- Surgery is a thyroid cure that permanently removes your thyroid gland.
How can you reduce the risk of thyroid disease?
While there is nothing that will completely prevent you from getting thyroid disease, there are the seven most important steps that you can take that can reduce the risk of thyroid disease. These include:
- Quit smoking. The toxins in cigarette smoke such as thiocyanate can block the production of thyroid hormones.
- Avoid getting X-rays done frequently. Still, if you have been recommended one by your doctor, always ask for a thyroid collar. This helps in protecting your thyroid gland from radiation exposure.
- Check with your doctor for selenium supplements. This is the best nutrient for keeping your thyroid gland healthy and its functioning optimum.
- Avoid eating processed foods too frequently since they can disrupt the production of thyroid hormones in your body.
- Learn to manage your stress levels and anxiety. While these are not direct causes of thyroid disease, they may hasten the event for you by slowing down your metabolism.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being obese contributes directly to the increased risk of hypothyroidism and metabolic disorders.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes things such as yoghurt, nuts, milk, eggs, fish, berries, cauliflower, etc. Go easy on caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, colas, energy drinks, etc. Reduce your intake of fruits such as peaches, pears, and strawberries and foods such as soy and soy-based foods.
The most important thing to do is to visit your doctor regularly for preventive thyroid checkups. This is the best way to assess if you are at risk and take proactive steps.