Thyroid Disorders – Don’t miss the signs

Thyroid disorders are more common among women, and there is a possibility that most of the symptoms of thyroid disease are mistaken as those for PMS, menopause, stress or depression by a person or his/her physician. It is good to go for a blood test for checking thyroid hormone levels, to be sure any symptoms observed are not because of a thyroid disease. This is a long post, but summarizes most of the commonly found thyroid disorders.

What is thyroid?

Thyroid is one of the endocrine glands located just below the adam’s apple in the neck, and it secretes thyroid hormones, the important ones being the T3 (triiodothyronine, having 3 iodine atoms) and T4(Thyroxine, having 4 iodine atoms). As Iodine is part of these two hormones, and is important to consume 100mcg of iodine daily, as iodine deficiency can lead to insufficient secretion of T3 and T4 hormones and enlargement of the thyroid gland known as goiter. Excess of iodine consumption should also be avoided to avoid excess thyroid hormone production. The release of these two hormones from the thyroid gland is regulated by TSH or the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.

What do thyroid hormones do?

The thyroid hormones regulate energy usage by the cells of the body and therefore regulate metabolism and help in creating various proteins in the body. These also regulate the body’s sensitivity to other hormones.

Common Thyroid Disorders and their symptoms

Hypothyroidism

This is the most commonly reported thyroid disorder where thyroid hormone levels are lower than what the body requires, and can be from mild to severe. Middle aged women, people in their old age, people suffering from ailments like diabetes and other autoimmune diseases, and those having family history of thyroid disease are more at risk of developing this disorder. The symptoms of hypothyroidism can be easily confused with other ailments.

Symptoms: Feeling cold even in comfortable weather, low metabolic rate, depression, constipation, irregular periods / infertility, rough hair, hair loss, brittle nails with formation of grooves, difficulty in concentration, poor memory, loss of appetite, frequent infections, weight gain, muscle weakness, persistent tiredness, skin eruptions / patchy skin, and cravings for sugar or salt.

In case you observe any of these symptoms but find that thyroid levels are normal in the report, it means these have to do with some other reason and thyroid problems can be ruled out.

Hyperthyroidism

In this case the thyroid hormone levels are higher in the body than normal and that excess thyroid hormones are being secreted by an overactive thyroid gland. While low levels of thyroid hormone make a person sluggish, an excess of these hormones can make a person restless.

Symptoms: Insomnia, restlessness, irritability, weight loss, wide open eyes, sadness, anxiety, depression, exhaustion and weakness, swollen fingertips, hair loss, increased heartbeat, intolerance to heat, trembling in hands, and impaired fertility more clearly observed in men.

Thyrotoxicosis is also a similar condition caused by excess of thyroid hormone and there are several factors that can cause it – hyperthyroidism, excessive thyroid hormone intake via medicines, pituitary gland tumors, inflammation of thyroid gland, and Grave’s disease.

Women trying to conceive or are pregnant must be careful about the thyroid hormone levels as such conditions can cause infertility or miscarriage.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

This is an autoimmune disease more commonly reported in middle aged women. It occurs when thyroid gland’s cells are attacked and damaged by white blood cells and abnormal antibodies. This can cause inflammation of thyroid gland and insufficient secretion of thyroid hormones. But sometimes excess thyroid hormone can also be released followed by lower levels owing to various stages of damage.

Symptoms: This condition can go undetected for years as symptoms may not appear and is difficult to diagnose as most symptoms may be similar to either hypothyroidism or thyrotoxicosis. This is successfully diagnosed by checking presence of thyroid autoantibodies in blood. Sometimes, cell samples are taken from the person’s thyroid gland to check presence of abnormal white blood cells and to rule out possibility of thyroid cancer.

Grave’s Disease

This disease is also more commonly found in women between the age of 20 and 40, besides found in men and women of all age groups as well, and even children. This is also an autoimmune disease where thyroid stimulating antibody or immunoglobulin (TSA or TSI) which is an abnormal antibody, stimulates the thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormones, which create similar symptoms as thyrotoxicosis. But pertaining to Grave’s disease there are some particular symptoms:

Thyroid Eye Disease: Watery itchy eyes, dryness in eyes, irritation and pain at back of eyes, double vision from the sides, and congestion in eyelids.

Other more relevant symptoms include excessive restlessness, irritability, disjoint thoughts resembling manic-depressive disorder.

References:

The Complete Thyroid Book by Kenneth Ain, M.D. and M. Sara Rosenthal, Ph.D.

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I am a mother of a 6 year old. My life's experiences and the desire to be a better parent inspired me to create SmartMomz. It has been a great learning experience and I am still learning something new everyday, which is amazing! Building SmartMomz has helped me understand much more about motherhood and about myself as a mother. I am a geek mom with great interest in design, technology and gadgets.

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Sonia
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