If you are fortunate enough to be free from any thyroid problems, you might have just heard of the thyroid gland. However, you should understand that though this gland is very small, it’s very important and affects each of your cells, tissues and organs, and all metabolic processes, through the hormones it produces. Earth’s Wisdom today wants to introduce this very important gland to the readers.
There are so many thyroid problems ranging from a tiny, harmless goiter (enlargement of the gland) to a fatal cancer. The most common thyroid disorders include abnormal formation of thyroid hormones. Excessive hormone production causes a disorder called hyperthyroidism whereas too low production of hormone is known as hypothyroidism.
Although thyroid problems can cause an unpleasant or uncomfortable feeling, most of them are manageable if diagnosed and treated properly.
All kinds of hyperthyroidism are because of an excessive production of thyroid hormones, but this can take place in many ways:
Subacute Thyroiditis: This is inflammation of thyroid due to which excess hormones leak from the gland causing temporary hyperthyroidism that typically lasts a few weeks but may last for months.
Toxic Adenomas: Adenomas are nodules formed in the thyroid gland that start secreting thyroid hormones and thereby disturbing body’s chemical balance; some goiters may consist of many of such nodules.
Pituitary Gland Malfunction or Malignant Growths in Thyroid Gland: Though rare, these causes may develop hyperthyroidism.
Grave’s Disease: Overproduction of thyroid hormone
Hypothyroidism, by contrast, originates from an underproduction of thyroid hormones. Because certain amount of thyroid hormones is needed for your body’s energy production, a decline in hormones causes lower energy levels. Hypothyroidism is caused by:
Excessive Amount of Iodide: Heart medicine amiodarone, cold and sinus medications and some contrast dyes administered before X-rays may expose body to excessive iodine. The risk of developing hypothyroidism increases even more if you previously have had thyroid problems.
Thyroid Gland Removal: The thyroid may have been chemically destroyed or surgically removed.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: This is an autoimmune disorder wherein thyroid tissue is attacked by the body due to which the tissue dies and hormone production is stopped.
Hypothyroidism, if remains untreated for long, can help develop a myxedema coma, a rare yet potentially lethal condition that needs instant hormone treatment.
Newborns and infants are at a special risk from hypothyroidism. An absence of thyroid hormones in the body in the early years of age can cause cretinism i.e. mental retardation and dwarfism. Today most newborns should be checked for their thyroid levels. Treatment is started immediately if they are found to be hypothyroid. Hypothyroid in infants as well as in adults can be due to:
A hypothyroid infant is abnormally quiet and inactive, has a poor appetite and sleeps for unusually long periods of time.
Hypothyroidism can be treated with medications to replace the absent thyroid hormones. This is synthetic thyroid hormone in the form of a pill given by mouth. In case of hyperthyroidism, medications are given to reduce the production of thyroid hormone or to prevent its secretion from the gland. Other medications can be used to manage symptoms, like increased heart rate, in hyperthyroidism. It medications don’t have any effect, radioactive ablation is performed. This includes doses of iodine labeled with radioactivity with which thyroid tissue is selectively destroyed.
In case of a large goiter or hyperfunctioning nodule within the gland, surgery can be performed to remove both these structures. Surgery is also necessary in case of a possibility of thyroid cancer. Sometimes the entire gland is removed with surgery and in that case, the patient has to take synthetic thyroid hormone lifelong.
So, keep checking your thyroid regularly so as to protect yourself from thyroid problems.
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