Thyroid Gland, which is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body and the biggest in the neck, is responsible for regulating the body's metabolism. This gland is located in the anterior neck just below the layers of skin and muscle. The hormone it produces called thyroid hormone affects almost all the tissues in the body. When something goes wrong with the thyroid, it is important to seek immediate medical help. Below, you will find some information on the common forms of thyroid problems including their causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Hyperthyroidism refers to the over activity of the thyroid gland. The most common cause of this ailment is the excessive production of the thyroid hormones, which is also known as Graves' disease. During this condition, the thyroid becomes enlarged and produces too much hormones. Another common cause is a condition called thyroiditis, which is the inflammation of the thyroid gland that can also result in the overproduction of the hormones. Taking excessive dosage of thyroid hormone can also increase risk of hyperthyroidism.
As for the symptoms, the most common are palpitations, heat intolerance, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, breathlessness, increased bowel movements, light or no menstruation, fatigue, trembling hands, weight loss, muscle weakness, fast heartbeat, and hair loss.
Treatments for this thyroid problem include drug therapy, radioactive iodine treatment, and surgical removal of the gland. In drug therapy, the two common anti-thyroid medications are methimazole and propylthiouracil, which block the gland's ability to produce hormones. Radioactive iodine taken in a single dosage can kill thyroid cells so that the overproduction will stop. This is the most widely recommended treatment for this disease. Surgically removing all or part of the gland is also used as treatment but only rarely.
As opposed to the first thyroid problem, this one is rooted from the underproduction of thyroid hormones. Causes of hypothyroidism include Hashimoto's thyroiditis (body's immune system attacks the thyroid tissue), removal of thyroid gland, and exposure to excessive iodine. In some cases of hyperthyroidism wherein the radioactive iodine treatment is used, when too many of the thyroid cells are killed, this can result in underproduction of the hormones that can lead to this other thyroid problem.
Common symptoms of this condition are lethargy, slow mental processes, depression, reduced heart rate, extreme sensitivity to cold, numbness of hands, development of goiter, dry skin, dull hair, and heavy menstrual periods.
In most cases, hypothyroidism is quite easy to treat. The quickest and most effective form of treatment is taking a thyroid hormone pill such as Levothyroxine. Once a patient has started this treatment, he/she will experience slight decrease in symptoms. After a month or two, the entire disorder will be cured.
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are just two of the many forms of thyroid problems. Other forms of this ailment include thyroid cancer (anaplastic thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, and papillary thyroid cancer) and goiter. Awareness on all of these is your first defense against them.