Your thyroid is a small gland in your neck, but its impact can be felt across your entire body: it affects your mood, your energy levels, has an impact on your metabolism, and generally working in conjunction with your pituitary gland to keep your body chemistry on an even keel.
Let us take a look at the most common thyroid disorders and their symptoms.
Thyroid issues take one of two forms:
- Hypothyroidism: This refers to an underactive thyroid, and the symptoms are usually lethargy, depressed mood, weight gain, and loss of tolerance of the cold.
- Hyperthyroidism: This is when your thyroid is overactive, producing too much thyroxine and it presents as nervousness, restlessness, weight loss despite an increased appetite, excess reactions to overheating and brittle, breaking hair. You can also develop brittle bones from the condition.
Neither condition is ideal: the body needs a certain level of thyroid hormones in order to function properly, and having too much or too little is equally problematic.
Thyroiditis (hypothyroid and hyperthyroid)
Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid, which upsets the function of the gland, causing it to release too little thyroid hormone or, conversely, too much!
Iodine Deficiency (hypothyroid)
Iodine deficiency is fortunately quite rare these days, as table salt often has iodine added precisely to prevent this condition, which used to be fairly widespread. This is the condition that can cause goiter, which usually manifests as a swelling in the neck and throat.
Goiters can become large and unsightly and are (approximately) your thyroid’s attempt to grow in order to maximize iodine capture, like a fisherman spreading his nets further and further afield as the catch dwindles.
This is an appropriate metaphor as iodine is found in fish. Consuming too much iodine can make your thyroid super-efficient and give you hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid Surgery (hypothyroid)
It is ironic that one of the top causes of hypothyroidism is actually hyperthyroidism! This is because some treatments for hyperthyroidism involve blocking the actions of the thyroid or even removing it surgically.
This causes thyroid hormone production to drop below optimal levels so the patient must then rely on artificial thyroid hormone treatments like T4 and T3 thyroid medication.
Graves’ Disease (hyperthyroid)
This is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, and quite a high cause of hypothyroidism cases too, due to the treatments meted out, as mentioned above. Approximately 85% of thyroid cases are Graves’ Disease patients.
It is a hereditary condition and is more often found in women than men.
Thyroid Nodules (hyperthyroid)
This is when small growths or lumps of cells appear in the thyroid. These lumps can produce elevated levels of thyroid hormone and are not regulated by the body, which leads to an excess of thyroid hormone in your system.
There are many thyroid conditions and the symptoms can be severe and scary. But the good news is that there are treatments for almost all thyroid patients, and a regular safe regimen of medication means that sufferers can live a long and full life with few limitations.