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Thyroid Problems Explained

Updated on February 6, 2012

Do I have a Thyroid Problem?

Do you ever get up in the morning after sleeping for maybe 8-10 hours and feel like it just was not enough. Do you lie awake all night? Do you feel like you can not make it through your day without a nap? Do you feel like you can't sit down and you have to be doing something at all times? Do you feel depressed often or have anxiety troubles? Have you seen a difference in you weight, hair or nails? If so you might consider seeing a doctor because you may be experiencing what is know as a "thyroid problem". When your thyroid does not function properly, it can affect every aspect of your health, and in particular, weight, depression and energy levels.

Thyroid | Source
Thyroid | Source

What is a Thyroid?

The thyroid is a large ductless gland in the neck ( one of the largest endocrine glands found in the neck ) shaped like a butterfly that secretes hormones that regulate growth and development through the rate of metabolism. The thyroid gland gets its name from th greek word for "shield" after the shape of the related thryoid cartilage. This gland controls ho quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensative the body shoud be to other hormones. It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones. The main thyroid hormones are Triidothyronin (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones regulate the rate of metabolism and affect the growth and rate of functions of many othe systems in the body. The most comon problems of the thyroid gland is overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism ) and underactive thyroid ( hypothyroidism ). Other problems include Hoshimoto' Thyroiditis and Thyroid Cancer. Read on the further understand your thyroid and learn other things that you may find helpful in determining if you may have a thyroid problem. Please remember this article is not to diagnose or treat in anyway. It is just informative information to better help you understand the thyroid and problems that can come from it.

Some Symptoms you might have a Thyroid Problem

Here are just a few symptoms that you might have a thyroid problem.  Note these are only a few of the many.

  • Muscle and Joint pain
  • Neck discomfort/ enlargement
  • Hair, skin and nail changes
  • Bowel problems
  • Menstrual Irregularities and Fertility problems
  • A family history of Thyroid problems
  • Cholesterol issues
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Weight Changes
  • Fatigue

Remember your symptoms may be different from others.

What Will Happen If a Thyroid Problem goes untreated?

Undiagnosed thyroid problems can dramatically increase your risk for obesity. heart disease, depression, anxiety, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, infertility and a host of symptoms and health problems.  It is important that you DO NOT go undiagnosed.

If I have a Thyroid Problem am I hypo or hyper?

Here are a few sign and symptoms to help you know if maybe you are hypothyroid which is when there is a defficiency of thyroid hormone or if you are hyperthyroid which is just the opposite you have an excessive amount of thyroid hormone.

Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroid:

Tachycardia, increased activity of bowel movements, difficulty in sleeping, intolerance to heat, nervousnss and alpation, increased respiratory rate, increased moisture of the skin, increased metabolic rate, soft and fine hair, wandering mind, sweating, scantly menstrual periods, infertility, muscle weakeness, nervousness, and soft nails.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:

Bradycardia, decreased heart rate, constipation, intolerance to cold, memory problems, coare dry hair, slow speech movements, slow walking movements, dry skin, brittle nails, weight gain, fatigue, irritability, puffy face, loss of eyebrow hair, heavy menstrual periods and infertility.

You may see that you have some of these symptoms listed in both categories. This is why we encourage you to see you doctor if you believe you have a thyroid problem.

A Thyroid Exam

Understanding Thyroid Function Test

Normal Range
TSH/Thyroid Stimulating Hormone/Serum Thyrotropin
0.4 to 6.0
If results are under 0.4 you may be considered as hyperactive/ Over 6.0 you may be considered hypoactive thyroid
Total T4/ Serum Thyroxine
4.5 to 12.5
Less than 4.5 you may be condsidered underactive thyroid/ Greater than 12.5 can indicate overactive thyroid.( Low T4 with low TSH can indicatepituitary problem)
Free T4/ Free Thyroxine-FT4
0.7 to 2.0
Less than O.7 can indicate hypothyroidism
T3/ Serum Triiodothyronine
80 to 220
Less than 80 can mean hypothyroidism/ Greater than 220 can mean hyperthyroidism

****Read This Carefully****

****These are very general values. Lab values can vary a little from lab to lab. Always check with your lab for specific normal ranges. Also note this is just a help item to understand the way results are calculated. This is not to diagnose you in anyway.****

 Normal Thyroid Scan Results
Normal Thyroid Scan Results | Source

What Does a Thyroid Scan Consist Of?


A Thyroid scan is an outpatient procedure usually done in the radiology department. ( Do not let this scare you. )  Before scan can be done you will be asked to take a pill or take a drink containing a certain amount of radioactive iodine.  This iodine must be taken up by the thyroid before test can begin which usually takes about 4 hours.  When iodine has had time to do its job you will lie under a scintography camera.  This camera will take pictures that correlate directly to the amount of iodine taken up by the thyroid.  You then leave the hospital when this is done and are usually asked to return within 24 hours to perform the same scan again. 

The only restrictions you have are with urinating.  Note that the iodine you took for test is radioactive and is eliminated through urine.  Most doctors ask that you use your home private bathroom only for that day.

Nothing to it!!! ( I have had plenty of these done.)

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid Cancer is a cancer that starts in the thyroid gland. It can occur in all age groups. People who have had radiation therapy to the neck are at a higher risk. Other risk factors include a family history o thyroid cancer and/or chronic goiter.

Serveral Types of Thyroid Cancer

  • Anaplastic Carcinoma: (A.K.A. Giant and spindle cell cancer) This is the most dangerous form of thyroid cancer. It is rare and does not respond to raidioiodine therapy. This spreads quickly.
  • Follicular Carcinoma: Accounts for about 10% of cases and is more likely to come back and spread.
  • Medullary Carcinoma: is the most common type and usually affects women of childbearing age. Spreads slowely and is the least dangerous type of thyroid cancer.

Symptoms(These may vary depending on the type of thyroid cancer.)

  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Enlargement of thyroid gland
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Thyroid lump/nodule

Treatment: Depends on the type of cancer. Surger is most often done to remove the entire thyroid gland. Radiation therapy may be performed using external x-ray radiation or by taking radioactive iodine by mouth. If cancer does not respond to surgery or radiation and has spread to other parts of the body chemotherapy may be used.

After treatment you will need to take thyroid hormone to replace what your glands used to make. This dose is usually higher than what your body needs, which helps keep the cancer from coming back.

Complications: (Not limited to) Injury to the voicebox and hoarseness after thyroid surgery. Low calcium levels from accidental removal of the parathyroid glands during surgery. Spread of cancer to the lungs,bones or other parts of the body. 


If after reading this article you believe that you may have a thyroid problem, take charge immediately. No one knows your body better than you. The longer a thyroid problem goes untreated the worse you may become. Talk with your  doctor immediatly. A few blood test ( see above graft for example of results and their meaning)  a thyroid exam as the one in the video and a possible thyroid scan ( see above to know what to expect ) will let you know if there truly is a problem. This depends on what doctor you go to of course as to what test they will perform. What do you have to loose?


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    • Temirah profile image

      Temirah 6 years ago

      This is useful - living with an undiagnosed thyroid problem is miserable. Getting a diagnosis and treatment makes a huge difference to quality of life. After I got treatment and got my life back my husband said that neither of us realised how sick I was until I got better. The ironic thing is I was an endocrine nurse specialist but couldn't recognise the symptoms in myself! Welcome to Hubpages.