Jun 18, 2018

Here’s What You Need to Know about Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid disorder is one of the most prevalent diseases in India. According to a survey, almost every third individual in India is suffering from one type of thyroid gland disorder or the other. This is alarming and indicates a need for awareness about the thyroid gland, its disorders, and how these affect our body.

Understanding the thyroid gland

The thyroid is an endocrine gland in our body that produces two vital hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones regulate body functions such as metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, breathing, body weight, menstrual cycle, etc.

As the thyroid gland is associated with essential functions, its imbalance can cause two major disorders: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Let’s take a look at each of them.

Hyperthyroidism is characterised by the overproduction of the thyroid hormone by an overactive thyroid gland. The body’s functioning becomes abnormal and results in the following symptoms:

  • Weight loss even with an increased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness or rapid heart rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Sweating
  • Sensitivity or intolerance to high temperatures (heat)
  • Hand tremors (shaking)
  • Hair loss
  • Missed or light menstrual periods
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Sleep problems

Hypothyroidism is characterized by insufficient production of thyroid hormone by an underactive thyroid gland. In this situation, your metabolism slows down and the body’s functioning becomes sluggish, resulting in the following symptoms: 

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  • Feeling extremely cold
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Uneventful tiredness and fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Frequent, prolonged and heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Joint and muscle aches

Diagnosis of thyroid disorders

Diagnosis requires a thorough medical history and complete physical examination of the patient. In case the doctor suspects thyroid disorder, they will advise blood tests to determine the levels of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) and TSH. In most cases, this simple blood test will confirm if the thyroid gland is underactive or hyperactive. Very rarely, other tests such as ultrasound of the gland, thyroid scans, or fine needle aspiration and biopsy may be necessary.

Treatment for thyroid disorders

While it may sound like an aggressive disorder, thyroid disorders can be managed through medication; very rarely is surgery required.

Treatment of hypothyroidism: Low levels of thyroid hormone can be replaced by synthetic thyroid hormone in the form of pills. Levothyroxine or L-thyroxine is usually recommended half an hour before breakfast. The dose of the drug needs to be adjusted depending on the patient’s response to the drug and their thyroid hormone levels.

Treatment of hyperthyroidism: There are many medications available for hyperthyroidism, and your physician is the best person to decide according to your condition. Radioactive iodine and anti-thyroid medications such as propylthiouracil and methimazole (Tapazole) can be given to reduce the levels of thyroid hormones. In addition, symptomatic treatment is also given to the patient for relief from the disturbing symptoms of the thyroid disorder. In some cases, thyroidectomy (surgery) is recommended if the patient cannot tolerate anti-thyroid medications.

The outlook for thyroid disorders

Thyroid disorders result in symptoms that can be quite disturbing for the patient. But the good thing is that they can be managed with medication, and surgery in rare cases. They are not life-threatening, and the patient can live a normal life. If thyroid levels fluctuate, regular follow-ups are required. Thyroid hormone levels should be checked periodically to ensure they are present in the right amounts. A drop or rise in hormone levels calls for a change in the medication or dosage.

Although thyroid disorders are common, most of us are unaware of their consequences on the body. This is because the associated symptoms are not alarming and are considered minor lifestyle-related changes in the body. However, if left undiagnosed or untreated, these can give rise to major health problems in the long run. So, every individual should consider getting a thyroid profile done at regular intervals to know the status of their thyroid gland.

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Here’s What You Need to Know about Thyroid Disorders was last modified: by

Article Categories:
Organ Health · Thyroid

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