What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front part of your neck. The function of this gland is to produce thyroid hormones that influence the metabolic processes in our body. Your body needs energy to perform all the tasks and it gets this energy from the food that you consume. This energy requirement is fulfilled by the process of metabolism that converts food into energy. Hence, your entire body will be affected in case your thyroid gland stops functioning properly.
Causes of Thyroid Disease
We just understood what the thyroid is and how important a role it plays in our body. Now, let’s look at some of the problems it can cause if it doesn’t produce the right levels of hormones and the reasons that cause thyroid problems.
The thyroid gland produces hormones- triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which are necessary to keep our body functioning correctly. However, when your thyroid starts producing too much of these hormones or fails to produce enough of these hormones, it results in several problems in your body and is termed thyroid disease.
There are two main types of thyroid disease, hypothyroidism (underproduction of thyroid hormones) and hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormones). Inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis), iodine deficiency and an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland are among the conditions that cause hypothyroidism. Grave’s disease, i.e, overproduction of thyroid hormones, the development of overactive nodules in the gland and excessive exposure to iodine cause hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is a condition where there’s a decline in your body’s energy levels due to insufficient production of thyroid hormones. It’s especially dangerous for infants as lower levels of thyroid hormones can stunt the intellectual as well as physical growth and development of a child. Some of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, joint pain, depression, inability to tolerate cold temperature and enlarged thyroid gland.
Whereas hyperthyroidism occurs as a result of increased levels of hormones. Weight loss, eye problems, insomnia, fatigue, increased sensitivity to heat, and anxiety are some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Diagnosis and Treatment
With blood tests, you can identify if you have thyroid disease. Thyroid blood tests measure the level of thyroid hormones in your blood which helps in understanding if your thyroid gland is functioning properly.
Imaging tests are also used to diagnose thyroid disease. This test, also known as a thyroid scan is used by the doctor to identify any issue by looking at the change in shape and size of your thyroid. It can also involve an ultrasound, a procedure where high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, are transmitted through body tissues.
If you are diagnosed with thyroid, your treatment would work to bring your thyroid secretion to a normal level. This can be done in various ways and depends on whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Some of the methods available to treat hyperthyroidism include:
- Taking Anti-thyroid drugs (methimazole and propylthiouracil) to prevent your thyroid gland from producing excessive hormones.
- Advocating radioactive iodine to damage the cells of your thyroid thus reducing the level of hormones.
- Using medications called Beta-blockers that are only effective on your symptoms.
- Surgically removing your thyroid (thyroidectomy). The thyroid won’t be able to produce hormones anymore. But, you would have to rely on thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of your life.
If you suffer from hypothyroidism, you can take Thyroid replacement medication. This drug is a synthetic (man-made) way to replenish thyroid hormones. Among the common drugs is levothyroxine. With medication, you can control thyroid disease and live a normal life.
When it comes to thyroid, it’s hard to be sure if you have thyroid as most of its symptoms match with other problems in the body. So, make sure you make an appointment with a doctor and consider a blood test when you feel these symptoms occur rather than ignoring them. And in case you are diagnosed with thyroid, don’t panic. In many cases, thyroid disease is a chronic medical condition that you have to manage constantly. However, if you take care of the treatment and live a healthy lifestyle, there’s not much to worry about. Take the prescribed medications or go for the required treatments to keep your thyroid hormonal level in check.
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