Thyroid Disorders - Symptoms
Located at the base of your neck is the small thyroid gland (glandula thyreoidea), which is shaped like a butterfly and wraps around the windpipe. This amazing organ controls the metabolism in your body, which is the way your body uses energy. It also helps regulate other body functions, such as growth and development.
Hormones Produced by the Thyroid
There are three hormones produced by the thyroid, which includes:
- Triiodothyronine, also known as T3
- Tetraiodothyronine, also called thyroxine or T4
“Strictly speaking, only T3 and T4 are proper thyroid hormones. They are made in what are known as the follicular epithelial cells of the thyroid.” Iodine is essential for each hormone and it is something we get from our diet.
The pituitary gland (a pea sized gland located in the brain) signals the thyroid gland when to release more or less of the hormones. Calcitonin is slightly different as it is made from C-cells and is involved with our calcium levels and bone metabolism.
It is possible to have hypothyroid or hyperthyroid problems. They have very different symptoms.
Hypothyroidism Signs and Symptoms
When the thyroid gland is not functioning well there are several possible side effects, such as:
- Fatigue - Feeling tired is a very common symptom
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Hair loss
- Weight gain, unexplained
- Weakness, with aches in your muscles and joints
- Pale, dry or itchy skin
- Trouble concentrating or remembering
- Brittle nails
- Feeling down or depressed
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding
- Enlargement of the tongue
Hypothyroid disease is easily diagnosed with a simple blood test and it is treatable with medication. There are several thyroid medications available.
Silent Symptoms Of Thyroid Problems You May Be Ignoring
Hyperactive Thyroid Symptoms
If the thyroid makes too much T3 or T4 the thyroid will become overactive. The thyroid gland may also become enlarged or individual nodules may also occur. An exam called a thyroid scintigraphy is sometimes ordered to check the nodules for the production of abnormal amounts of hormones. An enlarged thyroid or the nodules are usually not too serious.
The most common hyperthyroid symptoms include:
- Weight loss that is unintentional
- Increased appetite
- Irregular heartbeat
- Palpitations or pouding of your heart
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Tremors, typically a fine tremor in your fingers and hands
- Nervousness, irritability and anxiety
- Changes in bowel patterns, particularly more frequent bowel movements
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
- Muscle weakness
- Skin thinning
- Fine, brittle hair
Hyperthyroid disease can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can mimic other health problems. An older adult may have no signs or symptoms.
Medical Conditions Related to Hyperthyroidism
There are several diseases due to an excess of T4 hormone production.
- Graves disease - most common, runs in families, more common in women
- Plummer’s Disease - toxic multinodular goiter, iodine deficiency the cause
- Thyroiditis - swelling or inflammation of thyroid gland
Complications of hyperthyroiditis includes:
- Heart problems - A rapid heart rate, atrial fibrillation that increases the risk of stroke
- Osteoporosis - Brittle bones occur if the thyroid is untreated too much T4 interferes with calcium for the bones
- Eye problems (see below)
- Skin redness or swelling - with Grave’s disease
- Thyrotoxic crisis - a sudden intensification of all symptoms (fever, fact heart rate)
Graves ophthalmopathy may be a problem, especially if you smoke. The signs and symptoms include:
- Dry eyes
- Swollen or red eyes
- Protruding eyeballs
- Light sensitivity, reduced eye movement
- Blurry or double vision
- Excessive tearing, discomfort in one or both eyes
The treatment for hyperthyroidism is antithyroid medications that interfere with the production of your thyroid hormones. Sometimes radioactive iodine therapy is used as it will damage the cells that make thyroid hormones. Surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland is used when all treatment fails. Beta blocker medications may also be prescribed to slow down a rapid heart rate.
Hyperthyroid Risk Factors
The risk factors include:
- Family history, particularly a family history of Grave’s disease
- Personal history or some chronic illnesses - Type 1 diabetes, Pernicious anemia, primary adrenal insufficiency, certain autoimmune diseases
- Age - middle age adults most common
- Radioactive iodine therapy
Thyroid Trouble: 12 Warning Signs
Additional Thyroid Disease
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and it can cause a goiter. If you notice swelling just below your Adam’s apple you should see a doctor. Hashimoto’s disease actually causes hypothyroidism. It is most common in women, usually middle-aged. Often the underactive thyroid is the way this disorder is diagnosed.
Thyroid cancer can occur with papillary thyroid cancer being the most common. There is a specific gene mutation that may be the cause. There is medication available for people that live near a nuclear power plant, as this is a risk factor.
Hypothyroidism is a common condition but easily treated. If you have symptoms of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, see your doctor. These conditions are more easily treated when they are found early.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Pamela Oglesby