Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces the thyroxine
(T4) and triiodothyronine
(T3) hormones which help regulate oxygen levels, as well as help control your metabolism, growth, appetite, heartbeat and reproductive health. It is estimated that more than 20 million Americans
will develop some kind of a thyroid condition during their lifetimes, and more females will be affected than males.
People with hypothyroidism output abnormally low amounts of the proper hormones from the thyroid gland, resulting in a myriad of unpleasant symptoms and health problems. Some causes include underlying autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
, surgical removal of the gland, certain medications, radiation treatment or an iodine imbalance.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Signs and symptoms
of the disorder include:
- Irregular periods (more frequent, heavier)
- Weight gain
- Feelings of depression
- Skin changes (pale and dry)
- Hair loss
- Slow heartrate
- Puffiness in the face
- Chronic constipation
Treatment for hypothyroidism includes thyroid medications
such as levothyroxine, but these medications may take a while to find the right balance, as too much of the medications can cause symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as elevated or irregular heartbeat, tremors or insomnia. Follow-up blood tests will be conducted after a couple months to ensure your thyroid levels are healthy, and then about once a year as maintenance.
Pregnant Women And Hypothyroidism
It is particularly important for pregnant women
suffering from hypothyroidism to get treatment right away as the condition can adversely affect the developing fetus. In some cases, the condition may disappear after pregnancy, but sometimes it is a lifelong affliction.
People with hyperthyroidism have overactive thyroid glands that produce too much of the hormones. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by an underlying autoimmune disease such as Lupus. It is also associated with a condition called thyroiditis, where the gland becomes chronically inflamed. However, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an immune disorder called Grave’s disease
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism causes all kinds of chaos in the body. Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Tachycardia or irregular heartbeat
- Uncontrollable sweating
- Hot flashes
- Abnormal menstrual periods (fewer and lighter)
- Red, irritated eyes
- Changes in bowel movements (more frequent or loose)
One treatment option for hyperthyroidism is oral radioactive iodine which causes the thyroid gland to shrink. Another treatment option is anti-thyroid medications
which gradually reduce the hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Anti-thyroid medications don’t work well for everyone, and many of them can be a little more problematic and can cause serious side effects such as potentially fatal liver damage so they should be used with caution, your doctor will know which carry less risks than others. Beta blockers are often prescribed to people with hyperthyroidism to help lower the heartrate and stabilize high blood pressure caused by the disorder. Lastly, a surgery called thyroidectomy can be performed if a person doesn’t respond to any of the medications, but this is a last case resort.
While many of the symptoms can be attributed to other conditions, if you experience several of those listed, check in with your doctor or one of our EMC
physicians for further evaluation.