Thyroid disorders affect the butterfly-shaped gland situated in front of your neck. The gland plays an important role in regulating different metabolic processes throughout your body. The issues to the gland can disrupt the normal functioning or its structure, triggering different signs and symptoms. It is a common problem affecting anyone at any point in their life. But, you can get medical help to manage the condition effectively. Some of the problems to the gland, like cancer can lead to fatal results. So, getting assistance from your doctor can prevent any severe complications.
About Thyroid Gland
Before discussing the disorders affecting the gland, you need to know more about the thyroid gland itself. It is the gland located below your Adam’s apple. The gland wraps around the windpipe (trachea). The middle part of the gland is covered by a thin area, known as the isthmus. Isthmus joins the two thyroid lobe situated on each side of your windpipe. The gland produces vital hormone thyroxine (also known as T4). It is delivered through the bloodstream to your body’s body tissue. Your body converts a small portion of T4 into T3 (triiodothyronine). T3 is an active hormone needed for your body.
Working Of Thyroid Gland
Your brain regulates the function of the gland using a feedback mechanism. So, when your body suffers from low thyroid hormones, the hypothalamus in your brain triggers TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone). TRH stimulates your pituitary gland to release TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) to release more T4 needed for your body. Problems with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland can affect the gland and result in thyroid disorders.
Different Types Of Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid disorders are a common problem affecting most people. It can occur due to the over/under-functioning gland. The thyroid gland is essential to produce hormones, which regulates your body’s metabolism. Without the proper functioning of the gland, you can experience several issues in your body. The swelling of the gland situated in the neck also triggers problems. Due to the increased size of your gland, you find it difficult to swallow and experience discomfort in your neck. Here are some of the common issues associated with the gland.
It is the thyroid disorder occurring due to the insufficient production of hormones by the thyroid gland. The condition can occur due to the issues with the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, pituitary gland or your hypothalamus. The condition can trigger the following symptoms:
- Saggy skin
- Poor concentration (feel mentally fogged)
- Feeling cold
- Dry skin
- Fluid retention
- Aches in muscles and joints
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding
Causes Of Hypothyroidism
Why do people suffer from hypothyroidism? It has several underlying causes. The main causes of the condition include:
- Resisting t3 and thyroxine hormone
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the autoimmune condition triggering inflammation of the butterfly-shaped gland)
- Other types of thyroiditis like acute or postpartum thyroiditis
It is the condition causes excess hormone production. Compared to hypothyroidism, it is a less common condition. The symptoms linked to hyperthyroidism are usually related to increased metabolism. People suffering from a mild form of the disease may not experience any apparent symptoms. The signs associated with the condition include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increase in bowel movements
- Intolerance for heat
- Profuse sweating
- Trouble concentrating
- Unexplained weight loss
Causes of Hyperthyroidism
The main causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Toxic multinodular goiter
- Graves’ disease
- Presence of hot nodules (the nodules overexpressing thyroid hormones)
- Consuming excess iodine
It is the problem causing swelling of the gland. Several underlying issues can lead to the problem. It is not a disease. But, you can link the condition to abnormal thyroid gland function, hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism.
Thyroid Nodules: One Of The Common Thyroid Disorders
Nodules are abnormal masses or lumps found within the gland. It can occur due to benign tumors, benign cysts or in less common cases, due to suffering from cancer of the gland. The nodules can develop alone or more in number. Each nodule varies in size. Large nodules can trigger issues due to compressing the nearby structures.
Serious Thyroid Disorders: Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is the disease of common adult women compared to young people or men. The majority of the cases occur in people below 55 years. Depending on the specific cell type developing cancer, the cancer kind varies. With early diagnosis and medical intervention, the prognosis of the disease is good. So, people suffering from the disease have a high survival rate when the condition is diagnosed in its early stages.
Diagnosing Thyroid Disorders
In addition to thorough medical history and physical exam, specialized tests are used to diagnose thyroid disorders.
Your doctor suggests blood tests to detect the T3, T4, and TSH hormones. The blood tests can also identify the antibodies. So the doctor order test to detect the following antigens:
- TSH receptor stimulating antibodies
Imaging Tests To Detect Thyroid Disorders
Imaging tests are common diagnostic tools to detect thyroid disorders. It can detect structural abnormalities like the presence of nodules or swelling of the gland. Ultrasound examination offers visual of the gland, which helps the doctor detect the tissue consistency within the gland. These imaging tests can reveal calcifications or cysts. But, it cannot differentiate benign or malignant nodes.
The scans can detect thyroid disorders by using radioactive iodine and imaging tests. The butterfly-shaped gland is the only part of your body that absorbs iodine. When the doctor provides radioactive iodine, your gland takes it up. Then, an imaging test can reveal the uptake of radioactive iodine by the tissue. Areas or nodules producing excess hormone (hyper-functioning nodes) reveal increases uptake of iodine. These nodules are referred to as hot nodules. While the cold areas are the ones with decreased iodine uptake. The cold nodules are dangerous as they can point towards cancerous presence.
Fine Needle Aspiration And Biopsy To Detect Thyroid Disorders
It is the test used to check the cancerous presence. The pathologist removes a sample tissue or cells from the thyroid gland using a long, thin needle. The procedure is referred to as Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA). Therefore, the pathologist checks the sample for cancerous cells. Your doctor can extract the sample using ultrasound imaging.
Treatment For Thyroid Disorders
The treatment option for thyroid disorders depends on the specific type of problem you suffer. When you suffer from any abnormal signs, then consult your doctor. The doctor suggests diagnostic tests to detect whether your thyroid is underactive, overactive, cancerous or dangerous. Here are some treatment techniques for different conditions:
Treatment For Hypothyroidism
Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is a lifelong condition. You have no permanent cure. You need to take medication to reduce or get relief from symptoms. Levothyroxine is the medication prescribed for the condition. It is the synthetic version of the T4 hormone. So, it mimics the hormone production in your body. The medication provides adequate levels of thyroid hormone needed in your body needed for normal functioning. So, the medication you take supplies the necessary hormone in your blood. The restoration of the hormone can ease your symptoms. Therefore, it becomes more manageable.
Thyroid Disorders Treatment: Hyperthyroidism Treatment Options
The condition occurs mostly due to an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease. It can also occur when you suffer from thyroiditis (caused due to excessive hormone production by nodules). So, your doctor treats the condition by limiting hormone production. Reducing the overproduction by the gland or surgical ablation of the gland is also effective. In some cases, the doctor suggests the use of radioactive iodine. Initially, your doctor treats the condition with beta-blockers. Other specific treatment available for the condition includes:
Antithyroid Drugs For Thyroid Disorders
Your doctor prescribes certain drugs to reduce hormone production and alleviate the symptoms. The medications include:
- Propylthiouracil (PTU)
Methimazole is the preferred medication to manage the symptoms. It is due to the side effects associated with PTU. Pregnant women cannot take methimazole in the first trimester due to the increased risk of serious side effects like birth defects. Therefore, they need to take PTU during the first trimester.
Radioactive Iodine Treatment (RAI)
RAI is also referred to as radioiodine ablation. You need to take radioactive iodine. Your gland absorbs it and destroys a part or all of the gland. So, it restricts the ability of the gland to produce the thyroid gland.
Invasive surgery is performed by the doctor to remove a part or all of the butterfly-shaped gland. The procedure is known as a thyroidectomy. It is an ideal option for pregnant women, nursing mothers or have young children. Therefore, the option is perfect for people who wish to avoid any radiation exposure caused due to RAI.
Goiter Treatment Options
Goiter refers to the enlarged thyroid gland. The condition can develop due to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. The signs and symptoms associated with the condition depend on the size and location. Therefore, you can experience the following:
- Pain in your neck
- Feeling of fullness in your neck
- Difficult to swallow (bigger size)
- Trouble to breathe (when goiter is of larger size)
Based on the size and severity, your doctor suggests a treatment plan. Therefore, the treatment option available for different types of goiters are:
- For smaller asymptomatic goiters, you may not see irregularities in your hormone levels. In such cases, the doctor offers no specific treatment. So, you need constant monitoring to avoid any issues.
- For small symptomatic swelling of the gland, your doctor provides thyroid hormone replacement drugs. While the medication may not shrink the swelling. But, it can slow down or stall the irregular growth.
- Some people suffer from large goiter that continues to grow. It shows no signs of slowing even with medications. It can present a cosmetic problem as well as issues with swallowing and breathing. In such cases, your doctor suggests RAI(Radio Active Iodine) reduce the swelling. Using the invasive surgery, your doctor removes a part or all of the gland when other methods fail.
- In the case of gland swelling due to iodine deficiency, you need to take iodine supplements as per the recommendations of the doctor.
Thyroid Nodule Treatment Options
In most of the cases, the nodules formed in the gland cause no harm due to its benign nature. When the nodules are small, they cause no symptoms. So, the doctor will only monitor the patients for any changes. Studies indicate that a substantial percentage of people suffer from asymptomatic nodules. So, it requires no specific treatment. For nodules triggering symptoms, your doctor suggests the following options:
Thyroid Hormone Drugs
Prescribing the drugs are the first line of treatment adopted by your doctor. So, your doctor prescribes levothyroxine to shrink the nodules. It also prevents the nodules from forming and growing larger. It is a controversial therapy as it only provides expected results in a minority of patients.
In some cases, hyperthyroidism accompanies the nodules. So, your doctor uses RAI (radioactive iodine) to shrink the nodule as well as the gland.
Percutaneous Ethanol Injection (PEI)
It is the ablative technique used for shrinking large nodules. Your doctor uses the injection to reduce the size of the nodules.
High-Intensity Ultrasound Beam Technology
It is the non-invasive therapeutic technique using ultrasonic waves (non-ionizing) to reduce the size of the thyroid nodules.
The doctor recommends surgery when the benign nodule fails to the medication or RAI treatment. Your doctor also recommends invasive procedures when the nodules have cancerous cells. So, removing the gland is always advisable.
Thyroid Cancer Treatment
The treatment for cancer in the gland depends on the type and the staging. So, depending on whether you suffer from follicular, papillary, medullary or anaplastic and the extent of its spread to other parts of the body, your doctor decides the treatment. It is also dependent on if you are suffering it for the first time or is a recurrent disease. The treatment options for the condition include:
The surgery to remove the gland is referred to as thyroidectomy. Depending on the severity, you need partial (removing one side) or complete removal of the gland. Removing the gland partially is known as lobectomy, while total thyroidectomy removes the entire gland. So, your doctor can also perform lymph node dissection to assess the spread of cancer in the gland.
Your doctor suggests radiation therapy to kill cancer cells. For killing the cancerous cells in the butterfly-shaped gland, your doctor provides a pill or liquid containing radioactive iodine (IRA). Your gland absorbs iodine as well as the radioactive form of iodine. The collection of radioactive material in the tissues kills cancerous cells. In some cases, the delivery of radiation therapy occurs from outside the body. It mainly targets the area experiencing cancerous growth. Therefore, it is known as external beam radiation.
After thyroidectomy, you need to use hormone replacement drugs. It is because, after RAI or surgery, you suffer from hypothyroidism. So, it requires a lifelong prescription for thyroid hormone replacement drugs. In some cases, your physician prescribes a dose to bring down TSH levels or make it undetectable. So, it avoids cancer from returning.
It includes different types of new drugs for treating the cancerous presence in the gland. People who are resistant to radioactive iodine treatment can follow the option.
While chemotherapy is not common for treating cancer in the gland, your doctor can suggest it in some cases. It relieves distress and other bothering symptoms.
Hashimoto’s Disease Treatment
Hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s occurs due to an underactive thyroid gland. It also occurs due to the gland’s destruction or complete removal using surgery. So, the gland cannot produce sufficient amounts of the T3 and thyroxine hormone. The doctor treats the condition by providing medication to replace the missing hormone. So, it helps replace the hormone needed for performing the body’s key functions. Your doctor prescribes hormone replacement drugs to accomplish the goal. These drugs replace the missing hormone in your body. In most cases, your doctor suggests taking the following medications:
- For replacing T4: The doctor suggests taking levothyroxine. It is the synthetic form of T4
- For replacing T3: Your doctor prescribes liothyronine. It is the synthetic form of the T3 hormone. Doctors combine it with levothyroxine T3/T4 for combination treatment.
- Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT): While the mainstream medical community considers NDT as controversial, holistic and functional medicine practitioners use it in their treatment. The physicians today do not recommend the medication. But, patients from the early 1890s used it for treating hypothyroidism.
Alternative Therapies For Thyroid Disorders
Some people opt for other therapies to overcome thyroid disorders. These therapies restore immune function after cleansing the body. The holistic therapies can ensure the proper release of hormones for maintaining the balance in your body. But, before you try any of the alternative therapies, talk to your doctor. It is to ensure the therapies or methods cause no harm to your health or interfere with your existing medical conditions. The alternative options available are:
It is the holistic treatment option using homeopathic mixtures prepared based on Chinese medicine. The herbs used in the preparations can relieve thyroid disorders. Chinese medicine believes the problem occurs due to emotional stress. So, the preparation aims to overcome emotional distress.
It is the alternative Chinese medicine that uses needles to unblock your life force energy. It involves inserting thin needles at specific points to heal stress. So, it helps deal with hormone problems.
It is one of the alternative medicines offering relief from several musculoskeletal system disorders. Chiropractors implement spinal manipulations to deal with symptoms of hormonal disorders. Therefore, it eases muscle tension and improves your blood circulation.
Home Remedies For Thyroid Disorders
In most cases, thyroid disorders are managed with medical treatment and cause no life-threatening issues. Some conditions may require surgery. The outlook for most people with thyroid cancer is also good, although patients with thyroid cancer that has spread throughout the body have a poorer prognosis. You can try some home remedies. But, it is better to talk to your doctor before adopting any method.
Flaxseeds are good for your heart health as well as in regulating T3 and thyroixine hormone. It is rich in good fatty acids. So, it regulates the hormone production in your body. Since it contains Vitamin B12 and magnesium, flaxseeds can effectively fight conditions like hypothyroidism.
Iodine supplements can regulate the improper functioning of the thyroid gland. The supplement can restore the balance of iodine in the body. So, it regulated hormone production.
Include Vitamins in your diet as it can enhance the health of the butterfly-shaped gland. B family vitamins can fight the underlying causes of irregular production of T3 and thyroxine hormones. So, Vitamin B12 can help people fight issues like hypothyroidism. For a steady supply of Vitamins B, you can include the following:
The diet you include may not provide the daily needed vitamin supply. In such cases, you can take supplements.
Deficiency of Vitamin D can result in thyroid disorders. Your body can produce the vitamin when exposed to sunlight. So, you need to spend at least fifteen minutes outside. Getting sunlight light can ensure hormone regulation, absorb calcium better, and enhance your immunity.
Many people fail to understand the importance of exercise in maintaining good health as well as proper hormone functions. While you can try medications and natural remedies, you need to combine it with exercise to see results. Including exercise in your regular routine can ensure proper hormonal balance. It leads to better weight management. So, it helps deal with T3 and thyroxine problems. Try to include a balanced diet and include physical exercise to combat hormonal problems better. You can see the visible transformation by just tweaking your lifestyle.
People suffering from thyroid disorders can manage the condition and effectively reduce the signs with proper medical attention. While some of the untreated conditions may cause no life-threatening complications, cancerous presence needs immediate medical attention. Depending on the type of problem you suffer, it requires medical management. So, your doctor can suggest non-invasive or invasive options to treat the condition. With early medical intervention, you can eliminate cancerous presence in the gland. The spread of cancer to other parts of the body leads to a poorer prognosis. So, get medical help to detect and manage the problem effectively.
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