Symptoms of thyroid disease
Symptoms Of Thyroid Disease
The thyroid gland is responsible for the metabolism of every cell in the body. Whenever the thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, signs and symptoms of thyroid disease will occur. The more you know about these two diseases: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, the better able you will be to recognize them in yourself and seek medical attention.
When a person has hypothyroidism, it means that the thyroid gland is not putting out enough thyroxine (T4) or triiodothyronine (T3) hormones.
Hypothyroidism usually occurs in women. Years ago, when iodized salt had not been invented, low thyroid conditions in areas of the world not nearby an ocean where people could get iodine from eating fresh fish, low thyroid conditions were common and were associated with diffuse enlargement of the thyroid gland—a condition called having a goiter. Other conditions contribute to hypothyroidism.
Causes Of Hypothyroidism
There are many causes of hypothyroidism. One of the most common is an autoimmune process in which the cells of the immune system attack the person’s own cells as if they were foreign, destroying those cells.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the autoimmune disease affecting the cells of the thyroid gland. Doctors don’t know the actual cause of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis but it is believed that some kind of genetic reason or an infection by a bacterium or virus triggers the autoimmune response.
Other causes of hypothyroidism include the following:
- Radiation to the head and neck: If you undergo radiation for another condition, such as head and/or neck cancer, the radiation can inadvertently cause the thyroid gland to become permanently under-functioning.
- Hyperthyroidism treatment: Sometimes medications are used to control hyperthyroidism (over activity of the thyroid gland, such as is seen in Grave’s disease). For more permanent treatment for hyperthyroidism, the doctor will use high doses of radioactive iodine that will travel to the thyroid gland, which takes up iodine in the body, and will kill off the overactive thyroid cells. This means that the patient will be permanently hypothyroid and will usually require supplementation with thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives.
- Thyroid surgery: Because of thyroid, cancer or nodules on the thyroid gland, all or a large part of the thyroid gland may need to be removed. This means that there are not enough thyroid cells to keep up with the demands of thyroid hormones and the only way to really fix that is to replace the thyroid hormones with a thyroid supplement.
- Certain medications: Medications like lithium used to treat bipolar disorder can interfere with the function of the thyroid gland. This means that supplementation is necessary as long as you are on the medications.
- Pituitary dysfunction: In rare cases, the pituitary gland fails to produce enough thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) so that supplementation of the thyroid hormones is required. This can happen if a person has a benign pituitary tumor that crowds out the rest of the normal pituitary gland tissue.
- Congenital deficiency: There are situations in which a baby is born without a thyroid gland or with a gland that is hypofunctioning. This can be very dangerous to the newborn baby and can lead to mental retardation. For this reason, it is legally required that all newborns be tested for the disease with a simple blood test.
- Iodine deficiency: If you don’t use iodized salt or don’t eat things like seaweed or seafood, you run the risk of developing iodine deficiency. This is still a big problem in developing countries where seafood and iodized salt are not readily available. Too much iodine, interestingly, can also result in getting hypothyroidism.
- Pregnancy: This is a time when autoantibodies can be formed against the person’s own thyroid tissue. If a woman develops hypothyroidism in pregnancy, premature delivery, miscarriage, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia can develop, so that thyroid replacement therapy is required.
Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism
The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism can be so subtle, especially in the early stages, that the individual is not suspicious for a low thyroid condition. This is why women especially get routine screening tests for low thyroid conditions.
These are the main symptoms you might see if you have a low thyroid condition:
- Exhaustion, sometimes so extreme that you wake up feeling tired after a good night’s sleep
- High blood pressure
- Increased sensitivity to cold conditions or feeling cold all the time
- Weight gain despite eating a balanced, low calorie diet
- Loss of sense of taste and/or smell
- Dry skin
- Facial puffiness
- Voice hoarseness
- Elevated cholesterol levels in the blood
- Muscle weakness
- Pain, especially muscle aches, soreness of the muscles, stiffness or pain in the joints
- Irregular menstrual periods or periods that are heavier than normal
- Thinning of the hair or hair loss
- Loss of interest in sex
- Slow heart rate
- Poor memory and brain fog
If you have a number of these conditions, see your doctor for a blood test to determine what is going on with your thyroid gland.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition of an elevated thyroid gland; while there are fewer cases of it, it can be a dangerous condition that requires medical treatment. There are several causes for an elevation in thyroid function.
Causes Of Hyperthyroidism:
- Grave’s disease: This is the most common cause of a hyperthyroid state. It is an autoimmune disease that acts on the thyroid gland, causing the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. Like other autoimmune diseases, it is more common in women and tends to run in families.
- Thyroiditis: This is a catchall term for inflammation of the thyroid gland. It can be caused by immune dysfunction or a viral infection. There are several subtypes of thyroiditis, including subacute thyroiditis, in which the thyroid becomes inflamed and sore, putting out too much thyroid hormone. This condition tends to resolve itself within a few months. Postpartum thyroiditis happens in a woman after pregnancy. This affects 10 to 20% of all women who have a baby. Thyroiditis tends to last only a couple of months, followed by a period of a few months of a low thyroid condition before the thyroid returns to normal. Silent thyroiditis can also happen in patients who have no pain in the thyroid gland but it is still inflamed and puts out too much thyroid hormone. Eventually, some of these patients “burn out” the thyroid gland and it becomes hypothyroid.
- Thyroid nodule: You can develop solid nodules in the thyroid gland that put out too much thyroid hormone. You can have a single nodule causing the problem or a condition called “toxic multinodular goiter” in which there are several overactive nodules in the thyroid gland.
Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism
The signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism can be subtle, especially in the elderly individual. Testing thyroid hormone levels can help identify those who have an elevated thyroid condition.
Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include the following:
- Rapid heart rate: Heart rate is greater than 100 bpm or if you develop palpitations or symptoms of an irregular heart rate.
- Weight loss: If you are losing weight unexplainably or very fast, your body is metabolizing calories too much because of elevations in the body’s thyroid hormones.
- Increased appetite: You feel hungry all the time because you aren’t getting enough calories to feed your revved up metabolism.
- Tremor: This looks like a fine motor tremor particularly of your fingers and hands.
- Anxiety, irritability, and nervousness: Hyperthyroidism can affect the brain, causing anxiety-like symptoms.
- Menstrual irregularities or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Intolerance to heat where you feel hot all the time because your metabolism is too high.
- Diarrhea: You can have true diarrhea or just an increase in the frequency of your bowel movements.
- Muscle weakness and tiredness
- Inability to conceive
- Thinning of the skin
- Brittle, fine hair
- Goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland.
- Exophthalmos: This involves an enlargement and bulging of the eyes.
Because hyperthyroidism can adversely affect the heart and burn out your tissues with excess metabolism, this can be a dangerous situation that requires prompt medical evaluation.