As kids, we were taught about how the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland plays a pivotal role in regulating the body's metabolism and protein synthesis. Why people with higher and faster metabolic rates are fitter, and healthier than the ones complaining of slower metabolism? And why the body's metabolism is at its peak in the morning? The answer to this is the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck. It secretes three hormones namely thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3), and calcitonin. A person’s metabolism banks mainly on thyroxine and triiodothyronine, the thyroid hormones with iodine content in them. Calcitonin, on the other hand, helps in regulating blood calcium levels in the body. These hormones are imperative in channelling the human body's various operations such as, Metabolic, cardiovascular, sleep or thought patterns, & even sexual function.
What causes Thyroid diseases
Regulated secretion of thyroid hormones keeps the body in good shape. However, endocrinologists explain that the excess or lack of hormone secretion causes Thyroid conditions like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism respectively.
The excessive production of thyroid hormone or excess iodine intake may cause hyperthyroidism.
Primary Symptoms of Overactive Thyroid Gland
- Enlarged thyroid
- Increased appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Sensitivity to heat
- Bowel problems
- Menstrual irregularities
- Fertility issues
- Hair loss
Doctors believe a number of factors, genetic and environmental, contribute to an overactive thyroid. Chief among them being:
a) Grave's Disease: an autoimmune disorder where thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) antibodies trigger the gland to produce thyroid hormone in excess. TSI antibodies are said to have an effect similar to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
b) Active or inactive functional tumour clinically called thyroid adenoma, where the tumour produces excessive thyroid hormone.
c) Toxic multinodular goitre: Here, functionally autonomous thyroid nodules overproduce thyroid hormones minus the stimulation from TSH.
When the thyroid gland fails to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormones, the condition gives rise to Hypothyroidism. An under-active thyroid may throw up certain complications.
Symptoms of Low Thyroid
- Sensitivity to cold
- Feeling of fatigue
- Thinning of hair
- Foggy memory
- Puffy face
- Pain or stiffness in joints
- Hoarse voice
- Heavier and irregular menstrual periods
- Constipation (digestive problems)
- Weight gain
- Heightened blood cholesterol levels
- Goiter may cause swelling on the neck
- Fertility concerns
Autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto's thyroiditis, where the body's own immune system (antibodies) attacks the gland, thereby gradually destroying it. Pregnancy, iodine deficiency, congenital thyroid agenesis (a condition where an individual is born without a thyroid), pituitary gland disorder, & genetics are some of the factors that may trigger hypothyroidism.
Thyroid disorder during pregnancy
Since pregnancy involves hormonal changes, it has a certain effect on the thyroid gland. Doctors state that estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) are the two hormones that may cause a spike in thyroid levels in pregnant women. Therefore, the number of women said to be affected by hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism is quite significant.
Specialists believe that though getting diagnosed with either of the thyroid disorders is quite common during pregnancy, it is imperative that it is treated on time.
Endocrinologists opine that if left untreated in pregnancy, hypothyroidism may cause the congenital iodine-deficiency syndrome. It can also result in delayed growth and intellectual development in the infant.
Timely treatment is the key
It is always advisable to pay a visit to a doctor near you or consult an endocrinologist if you are suffering from any of the stated symptoms or are experiencing fatigue in general.
Once the specialist doctor conducts a thorough physical examination and if your blood tests indicate that your thyroid levels are indeed askew, the doctor can suggest the best line of treatment which may include medication, thyroid surgery, radiation therapy or radioactive iodine treatment.
Though errant lifestyle choices, genes, and stress may take a toll on our body, the good news is that most diseases or disorders can today be effectively treated, thanks to ever-evolving science and easy access to specialists online.
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