A whopping 20 million Americans will develop some type of thyroid condition at some point in their lifetimes and more women will be affected than men. There are various disorders
that cause this gland to malfunction.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck (below the Adam’s apple) which produces the triiodothyronine and thyroxine hormones that help regulate many functions in the body including metabolism, heart rate, growth and reproductive processes.
What Types of Thyroid Problems Exist?
The two most common thyroid diseases are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism (check out our post on both disorders
). However, thyroid dysfunction goes well beyond these two disorders. Some other conditions of the thyroid include:
What Are the Common Causes of Thyroid Problems?
- Goiter – When the thyroid gland becomes abnormally enlarged it is referred to as a goiter. It is often caused by an iodine deficiency and may indicate an underlying condition.
- Thyroid cancer – There are different types of cancer that affect the thyroid such as medullary, follicular, hurtle cell and anaplastic thyroid cancer.
- Graves’ Disease – is an autoimmune disorder caused by the overproduction of thyroid hormones and leads to hyperthyroidism.
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – is an autoimmune disease whereby the body attacks its own thyroid gland, resulting in many problems and symptoms such as inflammation, weight gain and cold intolerance.
Sometimes the causes are unknown, but common contributing factors include:
- Autoimmunity – when the body produces antibodies that attack your own organs, glands and tissues it can disrupt the thyroid leading to one of the disorders listed above. This can be hereditary or as a result of certain bacteria or viruses.
- Congenital causes – sometimes babies are born with an underdeveloped or missing thyroid gland.
- Medications or treatments – certain medications or treatments such as lithium or radiation can cause the thyroid to malfunction.
- Iodine levels – taking in too little or too much iodine can interfere with thyroid function.
- Certain dietary substances such as red dye (no. 3), processed meat or certain chemicals (like perfluorochemicals) can cause thyroid disruption or even thyroid cancer.
- Benign or malignant tumors
- Pregnancy – According to the Mayo Clinic, in rare instances pregnant women develop antibodies to their thyroid gland during or post pregnancy, resulting in hypothyroidism (this should be addressed immediately if it happens during the pregnancy as it can cause harm to the baby).
- Pituitary glad malfunction – when the pituitary gland fails to produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone it can cause thyroid conditions.
That concludes our look at thyroid dysfunction. Thanks for visiting EMC