The thyroid does a lot of things in your body, so it’s important to know what it does and what can go wrong. The thyroid is a gland that can be found at the base of the throat below the Adam’s apple. It makes hormones that help control some of the body’s metabolic processes. These processes include blood pressure, growth, body temperature, weight, and heart rate.
Many health problems and be caused by or made worse if the thyroid gland is not working correctly. It’s estimated that one in 20 people will experience a form of thyroid dysfunction during their lifetime.
The thyroid can become underactive, overactive, cancerous, or have nodules. Fortunately, once diagnosed, these problems can be effectively treated in most cases.
According to the experts at House Call Doctor, overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid becomes overactive and releases too many hormones into the body. This causes the body’s metabolism to speed up too much.
Hyperthyroidism is most commonly caused by an autoimmune disease called Grave’s disease. Grave’s disease causes the body’s immune system to behave like stimulating hormones and stimulate the thyroid uncontrollably.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Rapid pulse/heart palpitations
- Sweating and/or sensitivity to heat
- Tiredness, nervousness, agitation, and anxiety
- Weight loss
If it’s left untreated, an overactive thyroid can cause liver damage, heart failure, and death.
Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid is the opposite of hyperthyroidism. It occurs when the thyroid releases too little hormone and metabolism slows down too much. Hypothyroidism can go on for years with no signs or symptoms. When they do occur, they can be wide and varied.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, a condition that causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dy skin
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Memory problems, brain fog and depression
When left untreated, hypothyroidism will continue to slow the body’s metabolism down and will eventually lead to death.
- Nodules are lumps in the thyroid. These nodules can be hot or cold. Hot nodules are caused by uncontrollable overactive thyroid cells and cause hyperthyroidism. Cold nodules are generally harmless but 20 per cent of cold nodules will be cancerous.
- Thyroid cancer is uncommon. Luckily, it’s readily treatable when detected early.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Thyroid hormone levels can be diagnosed with a blood test and medication can be prescribed to correct their levels if needed.
Underactivity is treated with hormone replacement tablets and overactivity is treated with medications that slow the activity of the thyroid gland.
If these treatments do not work, part or all of the thyroid can be surgically removed.
Nodules and cancers use ultrasound, x-rays, and biopsies to get a diagnosis. Cold nodules are generally left alone. Surgery and removal of hot nodules or the thyroid gland is done if needed.
Radioactive iodine is used to kill any cancer cells that may have spread or to kill overactive thyroid cells.
If you have concerns about your thyroid, please contact your GP.