What is the thyroid gland and what are its functions?
The thyroid gland plays a vital role in the everyday functioning of the body. It is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck region, that takes care of secreting two vital hormones namely triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The triiodothyronine hormone directly influences a person’s metabolism (a cell’s ability to work). The thyroid gland’s function is to maintain the ideal amount of hormones needed for the everyday functioning of the body.
Thyroid diseases occur when the glands are unable to produce a sufficient amount of hormones that are required for everyday functioning. When the gland produces more than the required amount of hormones for the body it leads to a disorder known as hyperthyroidism. When the gland produces an insufficient amount of hormones for body functioning it leads to hypothyroidism.
How common are thyroid diseases in India?
According to various research and reports, thyroid disease is on a rise in India. These studies also indicate that 1 out of 10 people is susceptible to developing a thyroid issue or condition and that it is more prevalent amongst women than men. This research also suggests that more people are being diagnosed with thyroid because of rising awareness about these diseases.
There is an increasing number of people who have just started gaining awareness about thyroid diseases due to which they test for the same and then at times are diagnosed with the condition. Also, patients with autoimmune disorders (conditions where the immune system attacks the healthy tissues and cells of a body) are susceptible to developing thyroid-related diseases
What are the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction?
There are certain signs and symptoms a person can look out for if they suspect that they might have thyroid-related problems. The following symptoms indicate the requirement for a person to consult a physician and undergo a thyroid test or a thyroid scan.
– Abnormal menstrual cycle
– Weight gain/ weight loss
– Coarse skin
– Muscle weakness/tremors
– Poor appetite
– Swelling in the neck
– Change in heart rate
– Hair loss
What is a thyroid scan?
A thyroid scan is a specialized imaging procedure that helps better understand how the thyroid gland is functioning and also helps in detecting any problem that the thyroid gland might have.
This test is usually done with an iodine tracker that helps examine the functioning of the gland. The camera attached to the device that is used to observes the thyroid gland with the help of an iodine tracker. The test is used to detect the following.
– Lumps, nodules and other growth
– Swelling or inflammation
– Thyroid cancer
How is the thyroid scan performed?
The procedure of the test is short and simple.
– Initially, the patient will be administered a small amount of radioactive iodine. This will be done either through a pill, an injection or a liquid. The radioactive material will release gamma waves that the camera attached to the scanner will be able to detect.
– Once it enters the patient’s body it will reach the thyroid gland. The first scan will be done within 4-6 hours of the iodine consumption, then another scan will be taken 24 hours later.
– For the scan, the patient will have to lie on their back with the scanner positioned over the neck and chest. The patient is requested to lie still during the scanning process to get a clear image from the camera.
– This test will help understand if the thyroid has any nodules or goiter, why it seems to overproduce for underproduce the required hormone and any cancerous tumors.
How to understand the results of a thyroid scan?
Before undergoing a thyroid scan, the patient will have to undergo a blood test that will help in determining the patient’s thyroid levels.
It is important to consult a healthcare physician when it comes to interpreting the results. The scan will provide a better understanding of the thyroid gland and its functioning. With the help of the scan, the doctor will be able to determine the shape, outline, and position of the thyroid.
Through this, the doctor will be able to interpret if the gland is functioning as it should. Another important aspect the scan will uncover is the thyroid gland’s activeness.
What do abnormal thyroid scan readings mean?
Abnormal results indicate suspicious growths, nodules, goiter, enlarged thyroid gland, etc. It can also show areas where thyroid cancer can rapidly grow. Whereas normal results indicate an absence of any growth and that the gland is producing sufficient amounts of hormone required for everyday functioning.
Depending on the results and the condition the patient may suffer from, the health care physician will prescribe medicines or adjust the amount of existing medication for patients who have already been diagnosed with thyroid disease previously.
How to prepare for a thyroid scan?
When it comes to preparing for this test, it is important to be transparent with the health care physician. All information about medicine consumption like recent medicine consumed, consuming medicines with iodine, etc must be disclosed to the health care physician.
On consulting with your health care physician, you may have to discontinue any medicine containing iodine or any thyroid supplements for weeks before the scan. The patient may also be asked to avoid certain types of food like seafood, shellfish, dairy products, etc. Before a thyroid scan, a blood test will be done to check on the thyroid levels. The patient will also be advised not to eat for a few hours before the scan as well (they can consume water).
When can you expect back the scan results?
Depending on the clinic the test results can be expected within 48-72 hours and the patient can get their interpretation for the results within a week.
What is the average price range for the thyroid scan in India?
In India, the thyroid scan price varies from place to place. The approximate bracket within which it can fall is Rs. 1800 to 3800.
How do thyroid hormones affect pregnancy?
The hormones produced by the thyroid glands play a vital role in the development of the fetus’s brain and nervous system. Thyroid diseases are hard to detect during pregnancy as certain symptoms are common in pregnancy and when a person is likely to have a thyroid problem. Also, the hormone level during pregnancy is high, including the ones produced by the thyroid gland.
Is thyroid scan recommended during pregnancy?
Most healthcare physicians do not usually ask pregnant women to undergo a thyroid scan unless they are at high risk of developing thyroid disorders. They will normally conduct a blood test to check and see thyroid levels and other abnormalities. There are two types of problems pregnant women can face: that is namely estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
Most expecting mothers will have to undergo check-ups and scans through the course of their pregnancy that will detect any abnormality including fluctuating thyroid levels.
Another problem that pregnant women can encounter is postpartum thyroiditis. This disease is inflammation of the thyroid gland that causes stored hormones to leak out, therefore it is important for expecting mothers and new mothers to undergo a thyroid scan before, during and after their pregnancy.
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