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Getting to know your Thyroid: Diseases, Causes, Treatment and more

Getting to know your Thyroid: Diseases, Causes, Treatment and more

Thyroid gland and common Thyroid diseases along with their causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Thyroid: The Dangerous Butterfly in your Neck
The Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck that is essential for most of our bodily functions.  It has two side lobes connected by a bridge, called the Isthmus. Thyroid gland concentrates most of the Iodine in the body, Iodine being the essential ingredient for thyroid hormone production. Thyroid is one of the major glands that generate several hormones including Thyroxine, Triiodothyronine, etc...
These hormones help in different functions of the human body by its control over metabolism and protein synthesis. It plays an important role in controlling the basal metabolic rate of the body, growth and development, body temperature, cardiac rhythm, maintaining normal sexual function, sleep and thought patterns. Due to these reasons, thyroid conditions are very important to take into consideration.

Types of Thyroid Diseases and terms related to it
Both excess and low amounts of hormones produced by the thyroid gland will cause two main thyroid diseases: 
1) Hyperthyroidism- It is the condition where too much production of thyroxine hormone is done. In this condition, the body uses energy too quickly, which makes you tired, increase your heartbeat, make you feel nervous and also cause weight loss. 

2) Hypothyroidism- This is quite opposite of hyperthyroidism, where the production of thyroid hormones is at a low rate and at this stage, you can feel tired as well. You may be unable to tolerate cold temperatures and might gain weight. This is one of the most common conditions seen in pregnancy; deprivation of thyroid hormones in mothers can have irreversible effects on the fetus. 

3) Goiter- It is the abnormal growth of the thyroid gland which affects its normal functioning. The most common cause of goiter is the deficiency of iodine in a person's diet. Sometimes it will be a temporary problem that will get better without treatment. In some cases, however, it may lead to other serious conditions. Swelling and breathing difficulties are the most common symptoms of goiter.  

4) Thyroiditis- It is the Inflammation of the thyroid gland, most commonly caused by a viral infection. In many patients it may not cause any signs or symptoms, also some may notice swelling over thyroid gland along with pain and fever. Even though it can occur at any age, it is most common in middle-aged women. Fatigue, constipation, and depression are other major symptoms for this. 

5) Graves disease and Hashimoto’s disease-Both are autoimmune diseases of the thyroid gland. Graves disease is a type of hyperthyroidism where the thyroid is overactive whereas Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a type of hypothyroidism where the thyroid is underactive.  Once this disease has been correctly diagnosed, it is quite easy to treat and if left untreated, it will become worse than ever. Anxiety, irritability, fatigue, excessive sweating, intolerance to heat are the major symptoms of Graves disease. Fatigue, weight gain, intolerance to cold, joint and muscle pain and constipation are the major symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease. 

6) Thyroid storm- It is a dangerous as well as life-threatening condition of hyperthyroidism. This may cause you palpitation, nervousness, fever, diarrhea and vomiting. It can develop within hours and may require immediate hospitalization. If left untreated, the affected person may fall into a coma.  

Thyroid Cancer
While speaking of thyroid diseases, it is inevitable to mention thyroid cancer. In Kerala, a 3 fold increase in number of thyroid cancer was found in comparison to the last 30 years. This is the 2nd most common cancer in females in Kerala. This could be rarely symptomatic yet you could find symptoms of thyroid swelling, change in voice and sometimes discomfort while swallowing. Also blood tests may not show the presence of thyroid cancer. The right investigations to evaluate for thyroid cancer are ultrasound and ultrasound guided FNAC. The causes of thyroid cancer are poorly understood. Treatments are very successful with good quality of life.  Thyroid gland removal or thyroidectomy is one of the safest and most effective surgeries at present. Cancers of thyroid can be cured in about 90 per cent of patients by way of surgery and adjuvant therapy. Cancers that have spread to distant body parts are usually treated with a palliative intent, but in thyroid cancer it is possible to treat and control the disease with radio iodine therapy. 

Diagnosing Thyroid Disease
It is always better to consult a doctor to first diagnose if you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms or conditions. There are different levels of diagnosis methods based on the symptoms you have. 
Blood investigations: TSH, T4, T3, Free T4 etc
Radiological investigations: Ultrasound, CT, MRI 
Invasive procedure: Ultrasound guided FNAC 

Treatment of Thyroid Disease
Like any other medical condition, treatments are very much possible for Thyroid diseases. However, you should work with your doctor to treat any thyroid disease. Restoration or balancing of thyroid hormones in your body is the solution for thyroid issues. Treatment varies by your condition. If you have Hyperthyroidism, you need to slow down the production of thyroid hormones through treatment. If it is hypothyroidism, hormone replacement is needed. Drugs and surgery are usually effective ways to adjust hormonal levels. 

There is a solution for all thyroid related problems.Rather than self treating, do consult a specialist and have a safe life free of problems!