Thyroid is a small gland found at the base of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. The thyroid produces two main hormones called T3 and T4. These hormones travel in your blood to all parts of your body. The thyroid hormones control the rate of many activities in your body. These include how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats. All of these activities together are known as your body's metabolism. A thyroid that is working right will produce the right amounts of hormones needed to keep your body’s metabolism working at a rate that is not too fast or too slow.
Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid disorders. Thyroid disorders that can affect women include: Disorders that cause hyperthyroidism
Disorders that cause hypothyroidism
Some disorders cause the thyroid to make more thyroid hormones than the body needs. This is called hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body's own defense system, called the immune system, stimulates the thyroid. This causes it to make too much of the thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by thyroid nodules that prompt excess thyroid hormones to be made. A thyroid nodule is a swelling in one section of the thyroid gland. The nodule can be solid or filled with fluid or blood. You can have just one thyroid nodule or many. Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms. But some thyroid nodules make too much of the thyroid hormones, causing hyperthyroidism. Sometimes, nodules get to be big enough to cause problems with swallowing or breathing. In fewer than 10 percent of cases, thyroid nodules are cancerous. Thyroid nodules are quite common. By the time you reach the age of 50, you have a 50 percent chance of having a thyroid nodule larger than a half inch wide.
At first, you might not notice symptoms of hyperthyroidism. They usually begin slowly. But over time, a speeded up metabolism can cause symptoms such as: Weight loss, even if you eat the same or more food
Eating more than usual
Rapid or irregular heartbeat or pounding of your heart
Trembling in your hands and fingers
Increased sensitivity to heat
More frequent bowel movements
Less frequent menstrual periods with lighter than normal menstrual flow In addition to these symptoms, people with hyperthyroidism may have osteoporosis, or weak, brittle bones. In fact, hyperthyroidism might affect your bones before you have any of the other symptoms of the disorder.
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones. It is also called underactive thyroid. The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States is Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid. This attack damages the thyroid so that it does not make enough hormones. Hypothyroidism also can be caused by: Treatment of hyperthyroidism
Radiation treatment of certain cancers
Symptoms of hypothyroidism tend to develop slowly, often over several years. At first, you may just feel tired and sluggish. Later, you may develop other symptoms of a slowed down metabolism, including: Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food
Increased sensitivity to cold
Joint or muscle pain
Fatigue (feeling very tired)
Pale dry skin
A puffy face
A hoarse voice
Excessive menstrual bleeding
In addition to these symptoms, people with hypothyroidism may have high blood levels of LDL cholesterol. This is the so‑called "bad" cholesterol, which can increase your risk for heart disease.
Most people with thyroid cancer have a thyroid nodule that is not causing any symptoms. If you have a thyroid nodule, there is a small chance it may be thyroid cancer. To tell if the nodule is cancerous, your doctor will have to do certain. Thyroid disorders can be hard to diagnose because their symptoms can be linked to many other health problems. Your doctor will start by taking a medical history and asking if any of your family members has a history of thyroid disorders. Your doctor will also give you a physical exam and check your neck for thyroid nodules. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also do other tests, such as: Blood tests; Testing the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood can help your doctor figure out if your thyroid is overactive or underactive. TSH tells your thyroid to make thyroid hormones. Depending on the results, your doctor might order another blood test to check levels of one or both thyroid hormones in your blood. If your doctor suspects an immune system problem, your blood may also be tested for signs of this. Radioactive iodine uptake test; for this test, you swallow a liquid or capsule containing a small dose of radioactive iodine (radioiodine). The radioiodine collects in your thyroid because your thyroid uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. Then, a probe placed over your thyroid measures the amount of radioiodine in your thyroid. A high uptake of radioiodine means that your thyroid is making too much of the thyroid hormones. A low uptake of radioiodine means that your thyroid is not making enough of the thyroid hormones. A few people with thyroid cancer may have symptoms. If the cancer is big enough, it may cause swelling you can see in the neck. It may also cause pain or problems swallowing. Some people get a hoarse voice. Thyroid cancer is rare compared with other types of cancer. It is more common in people who: Have a history of exposure of the thyroid to radiation (but not routine X-ray exposure, as in dental X-rays or mammograms) Have a family history of thyroid cancer
Are older than 40 years of age
A goiter is an abnormally enlarged thyroid gland. Causes of goiter include: Iodine deficiency. Iodine is a mineral that your thyroid uses for making thyroid hormones. Not getting enough iodine in your food and water can cause your thyroid to get bigger. This cause of goiter is uncommon in the United States because iodine is added to table salt. Hashimoto’s disease
Usually, the only symptom of a goiter is a swelling in your neck. But a very large or advanced goiter can cause a tight feeling in your throat, coughing, or problems swallowing or breathing. Having a goiter does not always mean that your thyroid is not making the right amount of hormones. Depending on the cause of your goiter, your thyroid could be making too much, not enough, or the right amount of hormones.
How is hyperthyroidism treated? The doctor choice of treatment will depend on the cause of hyperthyroidism and how severe your symptoms are. Treatments include: Antithyroid medicines block the thyroid's ability to make new thyroid hormones. These drugs do not cause permanent damage to the thyroid. Radioiodine damages or destroys the thyroid cells that make thyroid hormones. For this treatment, doctor will give the patient a higher dose of a different type of radioiodine than is used for the radioiodine uptake test or the thyroid scan. Surgery to remove most of the thyroid.
Beta blockers are medicines that block the effects of thyroid hormones on the body. These medicines can be helpful in slowing your heart rate and reducing other symptoms until one of the other forms of treatment can take effect. Beta-blockers do not reduce the amount of thyroid hormones that are made. If the patient thyroid is destroyed by radioiodine or removed through surgery, he/she must take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of their life. These pills give your body the thyroid hormones that your thyroid would normally make. How are thyroid nodules treated? Treatment depends on the type of nodule or nodules that you have. Treatments include: Watchful waiting. If your nodule is not cancerous, the doctor may decide to simply watch the patient condition. This involves giving the patient regular physical exams, blood tests, and perhaps thyroid ultrasound tests. If your nodule does not change, the patient may not need further treatment. Radioiodine. If the patient have nodules that are making too much of the thyroid hormones, radioiodine treatment may be used. The radioiodine is absorbed by the thyroid nodules, and it causes them to shrink and make smaller amounts of thyroid hormones. Alcohol ablation in this procedure, the doctor injects alcohol into thyroid nodules that make too much of the thyroid hormones. The alcohol shrinks the nodules and they make smaller amounts of thyroid hormones. Surgery. All nodules that are cancerous are surgically removed. Sometimes, nodules that are not cancerous but are big enough to cause problems breathing or swallowing are also surgically removed. How is thyroid cancer treated?
Surgery. The main treatment for thyroid cancer is to remove the entire thyroid gland, or as much of it as can be safely removed. Often, surgery alone will cure the thyroid cancer, especially if the cancer is small. Radioiodine. A large dose of radioiodine will destroy thyroid cancer cells with little or no damage to other parts of the body. How is goiter treated?
The treatment for goiter depends on the cause of the goiter. If your goiter is caused by not getting enough iodine, you may be given an iodine supplement to swallow and T4 hormone, if need be. Other treatments include: Radioiodine to shrink the goiter, especially if parts of the goiter are overactive Surgery to remove part or almost all of the thyroid
To date, they don’t know enough about alternative treatments for thyroid problems. The doctor can explain which treatment options are best for the patient. Bibliography:
"Thyroid Disease Fact Sheet." Womenshealth.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.