Thyroid Disorders


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview

The thyroid gland is an essential part of the human body responsible for the production of hormones that regulate metabolism, body temperature and enhance growth and development of the body. Abnormalities in the functioning of the thyroid gland can lead to several clinical complications within the human body. According to recent epidemiological studies by the American Thyroid Association, nearly 200 million people all over the world have some form of thyroid disease. Critical cases of thyroid disorders may even lead to thyroid cancer. Around 62,450 new cases of Thyroid Cancer have been reported recently.  Therefore thyroid disorders have increased the global mortality and morbidity rates to a considerable extent.

What are thyroid disorders?

Thyroid disordersThyroid disorders refer to a group of syndromes which arise due to dysfunctions of the thyroid gland that may cause increased or decreased secretion of thyroid hormones.

Reduced secretion of thyroid hormones leads to Hypothyroidism and increased secretion of thyroid hormones leads to Hyperthyroidism.

Other pathological conditions also arise due to dysfunctions of the thyroid gland namely- Thyroid nodules, Grave’s disease, Goitre, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Thyroid cancer.

In the following sections, each of these diseases will be discussed separately.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland caused by reduced secretion of thyroid hormones, due to reduced activity of the thyroid gland. It basically denotes a partial or complete failure of the thyroid gland to release sufficient quantity of hormones (T-4 or Thyroxine and T-3 or Triiodothyronine) necessary for fulfilling the metabolic requirements of the body. In a few extreme cases, it is also called myxedema wherein a particular substance gets accumulated within the subcutaneous tissues under the skin, leading to swelling of the skin (edema) without pigmentation. In about 95% of cases, hypothyroidism results from dysfunctions of the thyroid gland and is called primary hypothyroidism. In a few other cases such as radiation therapy or birth defects, hypothyroidism may occur as a result of some primary clinical condition and is also called secondary hypothyroidism.

Causes of primary hypothyroidism are

  • Autoimmune thyroiditis (due to existing autoimmune disorders)
  • Birth defects (congenital hypothyroidism)
  • Iodine deficiency in the regular diet
  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Past surgeries of the thyroid gland
  • Medications like lithium carbonate, para-aminosalicylic acid, thiourea drugs, sulphonamides and phenylbutazone

Causes of secondary hypothyroidism are-

  • Reduced secretion of pituitary gland hormones
  • Reduced secretion of Thyrotropin-releasing hormone or TRH
  • Congenital defects
  • Tumors or other anatomical defects of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus

Symptoms of hypothyroidism are listed below-

  • Swollenness of face and limbs (edema)
  • Coarse, dry and scaly pale skin
  • Loss of hair
  • Mild loss of hearing
  • Unusual hoarseness of voice
  • Extreme sensitivity to cold
  • General body aches
  • Extreme fatigue and drowsiness
  • Bowel incontinence (constipation)
  • Dizziness
  • Mental instability, forgetfulness and confusion
  • Drop of body temperature
  • Anaemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced pulse rate
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Joint pain
  • Increased blood cholesterol level
  • Memory loss
  • Irregular and abnormal menses
  • Muscle weakness
  • Ataxia in aged people (uncoordinated body movements)
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Abnormal pressure on median nerve in the wrist causing numbness and weakness of hands)

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is the type of thyroid disorder that arises due to overactivation of the thyroid gland, which therefore produces excess quantities of thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism often leads to thyrotoxicosis. Women are more prone to Hyperthyroidism than men.

Causes of hyperthyroidism are listed below-

  • Immunologic disorders like Grave’s disease and Thyroiditis
  • Toxicity due to thyroid nodules (Adenoma, Plummer’s disease)
  • Multinodular goitre

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism are as follows-

  • Abnormally increased heart rate (Tachycardia)
  • Extreme sensitivity to heat
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Profuse sweating
  • Bowel incontinence and frequent bowel movements
  • Laboured breathing (dyspnea)
  • Disturbed sleep (may lead to insomnia)
  • Vision impairments
  • Muscle weakness

Complications and long-term effects of Hyperthyroidism can be very serious. These are discussed below-

  • Cardiovascular disorders: These may encompass Tachycardia, Atrial fibrillation, Angina (chest pain due to a shortage of oxygen supply), Hypertension (due to increased blood pressure), Peripheral oedema and heart failure.
  • Ocular dysfunctions: These mainly include but are not limited to – Exophthalmos (bulged out eyeballs), Diplopia (double vision), optic nerve compression, corneal damage and finally loss of vision.
  • Skeletal problems: These include Osteopenia (loss of protein and mineral content of bones), Hypercalciuria (presence of calcium in urine) and bone fractures.

Goiter

Goiter is the pathological condition in which abnormal enlargement of thyroid gland occurs causing increased or reduced production of thyroid hormones.

The main causes of goiter are described below-

  • Iodine deficiency in the regular diet
  • Pregnancy (due to the production of Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin hormone or HCG)
  • Inflammation (causes pain and swelling of the thyroid gland)
  • Grave’s disease (overactivated thyroid gland)
  • Hashimoto’s disease (underactive thyroid gland)
  • Multinodular goiter (fluid-filled nodules on both sides of the thyroid gland)

Grave’s disease

Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body produces numerous antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, causing an increased secretion of thyroid hormones. Grave’s disease when left undiagnosed may lead to several reproductive complications in women like premature delivery or even miscarriage.

Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid disorders painSwollen fluid-filled lumps or nodules may be observed on both sides of the thyroid gland either singly or in groups. These nodules may be benign or malignant. Malignant thyroid nodules may lead to three types of cancers-

  • Epithelial cancer
  • Medullary cancer
  • Anaplastic cancer

Diagnosis

Thyroid disorders of any form need an accurate diagnosis. The following tests are usually recommended-

  • Blood tests (to measure levels of TSH and free T4)
  • Blood test to measure AMA or anti-microsomal antibody activity
  • Ultrasound ( to detect enlargement of thyroid nodules )
  • Radioiodine scan (to rule out thyroid cancer)
  • Thyroid fine needle biopsy

Treatment

  • Radioactive iodine – This can destroy part of the thyroid gland. This treatment method is used at low levels to make sure that it takes care of hyperthyroidism. If a larger portion of the thyroid gland is destroyed, it will lead to hypothyroidism.
  • A large dose of regular iodine – This treatment method does not destroy the thyroid gland, but helps in reducing the excess production of the thyroid hormone. This treatment method is used during thyroid storm (is caused by untreated or undertreated hyperthyroidism) emergency cases.
  • Anti-thyroid medications – These medications help in reducing the excess production of the thyroid hormone within 3-6 weeks. Heavy does may help, but also cause complications.
  • Surgery (thyroidectomy) – is required if there is a cancerous nodule. If a non-cancerous nodule is present and is causing troubles in breathing and swallowing; if the patient’s body is unable to respond to radioactive iodine and iodine treatment, this surgery is done. Once this surgery is done, the patient will have to be treated for hypothyroidism for the rest of their life.

Prevention

    • Do not smoke or consume any tobacco products and by-products.
    • Eat soy in moderate quantities.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Drink a lot of water.
    • Consult your doctor for a selenium supplement.
    • Get celiac diseases diagnosed and treated.
    • Make sure to get your TSH levels tested regularly.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

TL;DR?

Facts

  • 27 million people have some form of thyroid disease, in the United States, while 13 million cases remain undiagnosed.
  • The thyroid gland regulates the metabolism of almost all the cells in the body. It helps to produce protein and increasing the availability of oxygen in the body.

Facts

  • Thyroid disorders disturb your hormonal disorders, making it difficult for women to conceive.
  • Imbalance in the thyroid hormone causes menstrual problems such as missed, heavy, frequent, irregular periods.

Facts

  • Thyroid disorders often tend to affect our emotions. Hyperthyroid patients develop anxiety and insomnia, whereas hypothyroid patients tend to suffer from depressive tendencies.

Related Conditions

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Maintain a healthy weight, don’t let yourself become underweight or overweight
  • Drink a lot of water as it will help keep your metabolism healthy.
  • Consume high amounts of fiber since thyroid disorders can cause digestive issues.
Don'ts
  • Ignore follow-ups and regular check-ups.
  • Neglect getting a TSH test done to check your thyroid levels.
  • Consume alcohol and caffeinated beverages.

 

 

 

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Caralluma Fimbriata: How to eat this cactus to lose weight Caralluma fimbriata is a miracle cactus that can be safely consumed by most for losing weight and boosting…
Plexus Slim: Is this pink slimming drink the ultimate one-stop fat burner? How effective is Plexus Slim in helping people lose weight? What are its ingredients? Can it be safely…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
Coffee Enema: Turn your favorite morning beverage into a powerful colon cleanser The wonders of coffee are not just limited to waking you up every morning. You can now use…
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Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
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7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
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Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
Jackfruit: Slice your way into higher immunity, better digestion, & more… Native to the South East Asia, the jackfruit is a fruit brimming with thousands of health benefits. Discover…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea (or red bush)…
How to correctly perform nasal irrigation using a Neti Pot? Neti pot has been a part of Ayurveda since centuries. This ancient tool is extremely effective in treating…
Epley maneuver: Why is this the best protection from the symptoms of vertigo? Epley maneuver is an exercise that can treat the symptoms of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).  It was…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
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Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
chloride test
Chloride Test A chloride test of the blood checks the level of chloride in body, an important factor governing the…
Optavia diet
The features of an Optavia diet The Optavia diet endorses pre-packaged meals and snacks called "fuelings" that are tasty, low in calorie, and incorporates…
Agave nectar: The bitter truth about this sweetener revealed Agave nectar is considered to be sweeter than the normal table sugar and even contains higher amounts of…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
What to eat, what not to eat in the South Beach Diet? The South Beach Diet is one among the most popular weight loss programs that have been the talk…
These are the top foods to increase your hemoglobin count It is important to add iron-rich foods into your diet in order to increase hemoglobin. Deficiency of hemoglobin could…
Atkins diet weight loss
Atkins Diet: The right steps to carb control that can help you lose those pounds fast The Atkins diet is a high fat, low-carb diet with proven weight loss benefits that is flexible enough…
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Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
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5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
amylase test
Amylase Test Amylase test is done by checking the level of this protein in the blood sample and also in…
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VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
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Anti-Hepatitis B Core Antigen (AHBc) Total Anti-hepatitis B core antigen (AHBC ) is a blood examination and the only serological marker of infectious blood…
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Blood Sodium Test A blood sodium test measures the amount of sodium (an important electrolyte) in your body. It is also…
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9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking is good for…
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Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…
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Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…