Thyroid Disorders: Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism

Thyroid disorders are common, and they often go undetected until the patient presents serious symptoms. Research by the American Thyroid Association surmises that approximately 20 million people have thyroid disorders, and 60% are undiagnosed. Thyroid disorders are more prevalent among women, especially after thirty years. Olga Burzyantseva MD of CHW Cares, helps patients diagnose endocrine problems that could be plaguing their health.

Common thyroid disorders

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ found in the front lower area of your neck that is responsible for hormone production and regulation. If there is something amiss, this organ will malfunction and present symptoms. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the most common thyroid disorders.

Hypothyroidism

This condition occurs when an underactive thyroid fails to produce enough of the essential hormones necessary for optimal functioning of your body. One of the key functions of the thyroid is metabolism which is essentially how your body cells utilize energy from food. This process influences how you burn calories, your body’s temperature, and your heartbeat. If your hormone levels are insufficient, these processes slow down, and you start to gain weight, among other things.

There are many causes of hypothyroidism, including thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is another culprit, and it occurs when the body’s cells attack your thyroid and is usually hereditary. Postpartum thyroiditis is temporary and only affects less than 10 percent of women after childbirth. In rare cases, the thyroid gland fails to work normally right from birth, and this could result in mental and physical defects as the child grows. While not common in industrialized nations, iodine deficiency is another cause of hypothyroidism. Here are the signs for hypothyroidism:

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Fatigue
  • Memory impairment
  • Slower heart rate
  • Hair loss
  • Puffy or swollen face
  • Constipation

Hyperthyroidism

This thyroid condition is the opposite of hypothyroidism. In this case, the patient has an overactive thyroid gland that produces too much thyroxine hormone. This hormone can accelerate metabolism and increase your heart rate. Your endocrinologist may suggest using radioactive iodine to slow hormone production, and in extreme cases, thyroid removal is necessary.

Grave’s disease, hyper-functioning thyroid nodules, and thyroiditis are known causes of this thyroid disorder. Chronic ailments like adrenal insufficiency and a family history of Grave’s disease are major risk factors for hyperthyroidism. Patients usually present these signs:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tachycardia (more than 100 beats per minute)
  • Goiter (or sometimes thyroid nodule)
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat)
  • Tremor in your hands
  • Irregular periods
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Light sensitivity
  • Protruding eyeballs

As you can see, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are almost the opposite of hypothyroidism. These signs can also be indicative of other health conditions not related to your thyroid gland but if you get several of them, see a doctor.

Just like cancer screening, dental appointments, and other routine health checks, it is prudent that you prioritize thyroid screening. An endocrinologist will draw blood, and if you are a candidate for a thyroid disorder, you start treatment early.

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