The thyroid, a powerhouse organ that is a part of the endocrine system, is a butterfly-shaped gland found in the front of the neck just below the Adam’s Apple. It aids in controlling many functions throughout the body including mood stabilization, digestion, brain development, and metabolism. Thyroid disorders are more common in women but can occur in men, and incidence increases as one ages. While many people do not take notice of the thyroid until a problem arises, some notice symptoms associated with thyroid dysfunction prior to diagnosis. Below, we will be discussing the two main types of thyroid disorders and symptoms associated with each.
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the two main categories of thyroid dysfunction. When the thyroid does not make enough hormone to support the body, this condition is known as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is often caused from an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's, but it can also be due to nodules or small bumps on the thyroid, removal of part or all the thyroid gland, radiation therapy, certain medications or congenital hypothyroidism, which is discovered at birth. Whatever the cause, symptoms are relatively consistent and include fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, cold intolerance, depression, joint or muscle pain, and slowed heart rate. Treatment will depend on the cause and can range from surgery to medications, which will assist in supplementing the lack of thyroid hormone.
In contrast, hyperthyroidism is a result of the overproduction of thyroid hormones. The causes of hyperthyroidism include Graves disease, which is an autoimmune condition, nodules, too much iodine or too much thyroid medication. People with Hashimoto’s can fluctuate between hypo- and hyper- depending on the autoimmune process. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism are heat intolerance, increased heart rate, anxiety, weight loss, frequent bowel movements, and occasionally a goiter, which is characterized by an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Medication or surgery and sometimes both are required in the treatment of hyperthyroidism.
Stay tuned to discuss the different thyroid hormones produced and their impact on the body.
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