Understanding Potential Ailments of Your Thyroid
Your thyroid is an important part of your anatomy. The hormones that it produces and controls impact your weight, mood and vision, among others. To say that it’s an important part of your body is an understatement. When something goes wrong with your thyroid, it’s serious; this is why it’s important to understand the potential ailments of your thyroid.
When your thyroid is producing too many hormones the condition is called hyperthyroidism, when it produces too little, hypothyroidism. These are also referred to as an overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid. The symptoms of which can be found here for Overactive and Underactive thyroids.
Doctors can diagnose the condition by conducting a thyroid test to examine the hormones in your blood. Treatment from that point depends on the cause of your condition. In some cases, it can be caused by a deficiency of iodine, usually found in iodized salt, selenium and zinc, found in sea-foods, eggs, legumes, beef and chicken. This cause is rarely found in first world countries as the vitamins are included in most diets.
Most cases of both overactive and underactive thyroids are from autoimmune diseases, where the immune system attacks the thyroid, resulting in an excess or deficit of hormones. The diseases are called Graves’ disease (overactive) and Hashimoto’s disease (underactive). Less common reasons are swelling due to other medicine, benign tumours and previous thyroid treatments.
Treatments usually come in the form of medicine taken on a daily basis. For an underactive thyroid, medicine will be issued in the form of synthetic hormones (T4 and T3) to make up for your thyroid’s shortfalls. T3 medicine is a hormone that T4 becomes when activated by the body, meaning that it cuts out the middle man and can have beneficial effects when paired with T4.
Treating an overactive thyroid can be more difficult. If your thyroid is swollen from injury, or other medications or treatments, you may only need medicine called thionamide, which stops your thyroid from producing excess hormones. If the condition is more severe, due to severe swelling, previous thyroid cancer or benign tumours, more invasive treatments are needed. These come in the form of radioactive iodine treatment and surgery. Radioactive iodine treatment is a form of radiotherapy where radioactive iodine is ingested and absorbed by the thyroid, destroying some of its cells. This has the effect of reducing the number of cells creating hormones, thus lowering the number of hormones in the blood. Surgery similarly reduces the number of thyroid cells via direct removal. Removing the entire gland is usually recommended to prevent the symptoms returning, however, this will mean medication is needed to replace the thyroid for the rest of your life.