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Health and Fitness News

Blame Your Thyroid

A thyroid hormone imbalance can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms.

A small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, your thyroid plays a big role in your health and well-being. The job of the thyroid is to produce the thyroid hormone, a hormone that influences nearly every metabolic process that goes on in your body. From your heartbeat to how fast you burn calories to digestion, muscle control, mood, and brain development, it can’t be done without thyroid hormones.

When the thyroid fails to produce the right amount of hormones, you’ll begin to notice something’s not right. The good news is that most thyroid conditions can be controlled and treated with the right care and medications.
What happens when your thyroid goes a bit off the rails?

Hyperthyroidism

When your thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, it’s known as hyperthyroidism. There are several types of this condition, but Graves’ disease is the most common. An estimated 1 out of 100 of women have hyperthyroidism and 70 percent of them have Graves’ disease. This autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid, causing it to produce too much hormone. Often developing during the 20s or 30s, Graves’ disease may be brought on by pregnancy, stress, or smoking. Left untreated, Graves’ can lead to brittle bones or heart problems.

Other hyperthyroid conditions include nodules on the thyroid gland, inflammation of the thyroid, or cancerous growths.

Symptoms of too much thyroid hormone include nervousness, a racing or irregular heart beat, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, diarrhea, sleep problems, brittle hair, thin skin, muscle weakness, sweating, weak nails, weight loss, and bulging eyes. If hyperthyroidism is suspected, blood tests that measure levels of thyroid hormone are used for a definitive diagnose. Your doctor may also test for the condition by administering radioactive iodine, a substance used by the thyroid to produce hormones. If the thyroid absorbs a lot of the radioactive iodine, it shows you have an overactive thyroid.

To treat hyperthyroidism, you may be given medication to slow the production of thyroid hormones, beta-blockers to reduce certain symptoms, or large amounts of radioactive iodine to damage the thyroid gland. In some cases, your thyroid gland may need to be surgically removed. When the gland is damaged or removed, hypothyroidism sets in and you’ll need to take a daily dose of thyroid hormone to make up for the loss of your hormone-producing gland.

Hypothyroidism

When your thyroid fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, you have hypothyroidism, a condition that affects between two and seven percent of the world’s population. The most common cause is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. With this disease, the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland so that it no longer produces enough thyroid hormone. Hashimoto’s most often affects middle-aged women, but can affect anyone at any age.

Other causes of hypothyroidism include surgical removal of the thyroid gland or damage to the gland caused by radiation treatment.

Regardless of the cause, someone without enough thyroid hormone may experience fatigue, weakness, a slow heart rate, weight gain, memory problems, depression, dry skin, sensitivity to cold, thin hair, an enlarged thyroid, a puffy face, and constipation. Blood tests are used to diagnose hypothyroidism and treatment includes taking the right dose of thyroid hormone.

Early diagnosis of any type of thyroid disease ensures optimal outcome and prevents further complications. Talk with your physician if you suspect you may be suffering from a thyroid issue.

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