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Thyroid Awareness Month - Types, Symptoms, and Self-Care Tips

  • January 09, 2023
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The thyroid gland is a small organ in the front of the neck that wraps around the windpipe (trachea). It has the shape of a butterfly, with two wide wings that extend around the side of your throat. Throughout your body, glands produce and release substances that assist your body in performing a specific function. Your thyroid gland produces hormones that aid in the regulation of many vital bodily functions.

When your thyroid isn't working properly, it can have an effect on the rest of your body. Hyperthyroidism occurs when your body produces an excessive amount of thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism occurs when your body produces insufficient thyroid hormone. Both conditions are serious and should be treated by your doctor.

Function of the Thyroid Gland

The thyroid regulates your metabolism with two hormones: T4 (thyroxine, which contains four iodide atoms) and T3 (triiodothyronine, contains three iodide atoms). The thyroid produces these two hormones, which tell the body's cells how much energy to use. When your thyroid is functioning properly, it will produce the appropriate amount of hormones to keep your metabolism running smoothly. The thyroid produces replacement hormones as the hormones are depleted.

This is all under the control of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, which is located in the centre of the skull, below the brain, monitors and controls the amount of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream. When the pituitary gland detects a lack of thyroid hormones or an excess of hormones in your body, it adjusts the levels with its own hormone. This hormone is referred to as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The TSH will be sent to the thyroid, which will tell it what needs to be done to return the body to normal.

Types of Thyroid Disorders

There are two common types of thyroid disorders and these affect the functioning of your thyroid gland. They are:

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid does not produce sufficient hormones. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, hypothyroidism is more common in women than in men.

How can you tell if you're hypothyroid? Fatigue, intolerance to cold temperatures, weight gain or inability to lose weight, constipation, decreased heart rate, and coarse hair and skin are all symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid overworks and produces more hormones than it should. Hyperthyroidism, like hypothyroidism, is more common in women. Hyperthyroidism can cause fatigue, weight loss or gain if you have an increased appetite, heat intolerance, and an increased heart rate with palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, tremors, diarrhoea, increased sweating, and hair thinning.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

Thyroiditis - This condition is characterised by thyroid gland inflammation (swelling). Thyroiditis can reduce the amount of hormones produced by your thyroid.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis - Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a painless autoimmune condition in which the body's cells attack and damage the thyroid. This is an inherited disorder.

Postpartum Thyroiditis - This condition affects 5% to 9% of women after giving birth. It is usually a transient condition.

Iodine Deficiency - The thyroid uses iodine to begin producing hormones. Iodine deficiency is a problem that affects millions of people worldwide.

Non-Functioning Thyroid Gland - The thyroid gland does not always function properly from birth. This affects approximately 1 in every 4,000 newborns. If the child is not treated, he or she may develop both physical and mental problems in the future. In the hospital, all newborns are given a screening blood test to check their thyroid function.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Grave’s Disease - In this case, the entire thyroid gland may be overactive and generate an excessive amount of hormone. This condition is also known as diffuse toxic goitre (enlarged thyroid gland).

Nodules - Hyperthyroidism can be caused by thyroid nodules that are overactive. A toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodule is a single nodule, whereas a toxic multi-nodular goitre is a gland with several nodules.

Thyroiditis - This condition can be painful or not felt at all. Thyroiditis causes the thyroid to generate hormones that have been stored there. This can last several weeks or months.

Excessive Iodine - When your body has too much iodine (the mineral used to make thyroid hormones), the thyroid produces more thyroid hormones than it requires. Some medications (such as amiodarone, a heart medication) and cough syrups contain high levels of iodine.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary depending on how severe the condition is. Problems often emerge gradually, over several years. Initially, symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain, may go unnoticed. Or you may believe they are simply a part of growing older. However, as your metabolism slows, you may develop more visible problems.

  • The symptoms – Tiredness, more sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, puffy face, hoarse voice, coarse hair and skin, muscle weakness, muscle aches, menstrual cycles that are heavier than usual, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, depression, memory problems.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism can mimic other medical conditions. This can make diagnosis difficult. It can cause a variety of symptoms.

  • The Symptoms – Weight loss, fast heartbeat, increased hunger, nervousness, mild trembling hands and fingers, excessive sweating, changes in menstrual cycle, increased sensitivity to heat, changes in bowel patterns – diarrhoea, enlarged thyroid gland, muscle weakness, lack of sleep, thinning of skin, brittle hair.

5 Important Self-Care Tips to Prevent Thyroid Disorders

Avoid Stress - The thyroid's proper functioning is hampered by stress. Yoga and meditation are two activities that can help you reduce stress. Reduce your caffeine intake because caffeine can cause adrenal stress, which can harm your thyroid. You could also consult an emotional wellness coach to help you manage your stress better.

Regular Exercise - Regular exercise is critical for maintaining a healthy thyroid. To manage weight in hypothyroidism, go for a brisk walk or jog in a neighbourhood park. Aerobic exercises such as swimming, cycling, hiking, and dancing can also assist you in maintaining a healthy thyroid.

Avoid Consumption of Alcohol and Quit Smoking - Avoid alcohol because it interferes with thyroid function and may interact with thyroid-related medications. Cigarette smoke contains a number of toxins that can harm your thyroid. Smoking raises thyroxine (T4) levels while decreasing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.

Get Enough Sleep - Thyroid issues can cause fatigue, so getting enough rest is essential for staying healthy. Try to go to bed and wake up early; it is recommended that you get at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Eat Healthy to Stay Healthy - Thyroid problems can impair metabolism and cause the body to function sluggishly or hyperactively, resulting in digestive problems. One must eat nutritious and balanced meals and be conscious of the same to keep thyroid issues in check.

Medical Disclaimer

Any medical information referred to in or through our blog is provided as information only and is not intended:

  • as medical diagnosis or treatment
  • to replace consultation with a qualified medical practitioner

Thyroid disease is frequently a life-long medical condition that must be continuously managed. This frequently entails taking a daily medication. Your healthcare provider will monitor your treatments and make changes as needed. With thyroid disease, however, you can usually lead a normal life. It may take some time to determine the best treatment option for you and manage your hormone levels, but individuals suffering from these disorders can usually live a normal life.