Thyroid Gland plays an important role in proper functioning of human body. It is a butterfly shaped gland located at the front of the neck and produces essential thyroid hormone. The main function of thyroid hormone is to regulate other endocrine organs. Thyroid Hormones normally act in the body to control energy use, infant development and childhood development. Thyroid disorders are common medical conditions that affect the functions of Thyroid gland. Most of the Thyroid disorders occur due to over or under function of the thyroid glands.
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Types of Thyroid Disorders
There are five general types of thyroid disease. A person can have one or several different types of thyroid disorders at the same time.
- Thyroid nodules
- Thyroid cancer
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone. It can develop from problems within the thyroid gland, pituitary gland or hypothalamus. Hypothyroidism is also called as unsuspected illness and it is frequently misdiagnosed.
Hyperthyroidism occurs due to the excessive production of thyroid hormone. It is a less common condition than hypothyroidism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism usually related to the increased metabolism. In mild cases, hyperthyroidism does not have visible symptoms.
A Goiter is an abnormal enlargement of thyroid gland. It is developed due to the iodine deficiency or inflammation of the thyroid gland. A goiter can be linked with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or normal thyroid function. Goiters are often harmless and treatment is depending on the size and type of goiter.
Thyroid Nodules are lumps within the thyroid. Nodules are occurred due to benign cysts, benign tumors or thyroid cancer. Thyroid Nodules can be single or multiple with different sizes. If thyroid nodules are excessively large or remain untreated for long time, then nodules starts compressing nearby structures.
Thyroid cancer is more common among adult women than men. About 2/3 of cases occur in people under age 55. There are different kinds of thyroid cancer, depending upon the specific cell type within the thyroid. Most cases of thyroid cancer have a good prognosis and high survival rates, especially when diagnosed in its early stages. The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump in the neck.
Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders
Common symptoms of thyroid disorders include
- Dry skin
- Neck pain
- Tumor in the neck
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Feeling cold
- Concentration problems
- Faster heart rates
- Unintentional weight loss
- Increase in bowel movements
- Fluid retention
- Muscle or joint aches
- Prolong or excessive menstrual bleeding in women
Causes of Thyroid Disorders
Major causes of thyroid disorders include:
- Excessive iodine consumption
- Iodine deficiency
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves disease
- Inflammation of the thyroid gland caused by a virus or bacteria
- Nodules or non-cancerous lumps inside the thyroid
- Cancerous tumors on the thyroid gland
- Certain medical treatments including radiation therapy, thyroid surgery and some medicines
- Some genetic disorders
- Thyroid hormone resistance
Diagnosis of Thyroid Disorders
In addition to medical history review and physical examination, a specialized tests are used to diagnose thyroid disorders.
- Blood Tests
The main goal of Blood test is to determine how the thyroid gland is functioning. Blood test is performed to measure the level of hormones such as the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4) and Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
- Imaging Test
Imaging test include X rays, CT scan and MRI scan. It is used to detect thyroid nodules or lump present within the gland. Ultrasound test helps to visualize the consistency of the tissue within the gland and often reveal cysts or calcifications.
- Radioiodine Scanning
Thyroid scans using radioactive iodine are often performed to evaluate the function of thyroid nodules. When radioactively iodine is given, it is taken up by the thyroid gland. The imaging test typically shows uptake of radioactive iodine by normal thyroid tissue. Nodules which produce an excess hormone show an increased uptake of iodine.
In Biopsy technique, tissue samples from the thyroid gland are obtained to diagnose cancer. Thyroid tissue is obtained for biopsy by fine needle aspiration (FNA). Fine needle aspiration is a safer and less expensive technique.
Treatment of Thyroid Disorders
Treatment of thyroid disorders is mainly depending on the type of thyroid disease. Major treatment options include:
- Thyroid Medications
A medication is the first line of treatment to cure thyroid disorders. Medications are given to replace the missing thyroid hormone in hypothyroidism. Synthetic thyroid hormone is given in pill form by mouth. When hyperthyroidism is present, medications are used to decrease production of thyroid hormone or prevent its release from the gland.
- Thyroid Surgery
Doctor performs thyroid surgery to remove a large goiter or a hyper functioning nodule within the gland. Surgery is necessary to remove cancerous lump in case of thyroid cancer.
- Radioactive Iodine Therapy (RAI)
Radioactive iodine therapy is primarily used to treat thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism. It is a safe and reliable treatment which targets thyroid cells only. Hence there is a little or no exposure on the rest of the body. The most common types of thyroid cancer are usually treated with large doses of radioactive iodine. The Radioactive Iodine therapy is usually given after the removal of thyroid gland to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue.
In most of the cases, thyroid disorders are easily manageable with proper medical treatments and are not life threatening. Thyroid diseases are life-long conditions. People with thyroid disease can live healthy and normal lives with careful management.
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