The Origins of Thyroid Disorders: Common Types and Symptoms

A gland on which your hormones depend

First experienced by Ancient Egyptians and with mentions in Indian medical textbooks, thyroid diseases have deep roots in our evolution.

Thomas Wharton was the first person in 1656 who identify the thyroid gland, its butterfly shape, and its placement in the neck.

The human body is a complex machine, and within its network of organs, glands, and systems, the thyroid gland is an important player. Despite its size, it plays a pivotal role in regulating numerous functions, making it an indispensable part of our well-being.

This delicate balance can be disrupted by thyroid disorders, which can profoundly impact our health and quality of life.

This World Thyroid Day, let’s explore thyroid health in depth.

A Silent Regulator

Located in the neck, below Adam’s apple, the thyroid gland is called the “master regulator” of metabolism.

The thyroid gland releases two primary hormones -triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)—influencing various bodily functions, including energy production, metabolism, temperature regulation, and growth.

The hypothalamus and pituitary gland control the thyroid gland’s functioning, creating a delicate feedback loop that maintains the body’s equilibrium.

Here’s a light on the puzzle behind thyroid disease development.

Genetic Predisposition:

Genetics lays the foundation for thyroid disorders, highlighting the influence of hereditary factors. In addition, numerous studies have identified specific gene variants associated with thyroid dysfunction.

For instance, specific genes TPO, TSHR, and TG variants have been linked to an increased risk of autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.

Autoimmune Dysfunction:

Autoimmunity plays a pivotal role in the origins of thyroid disorders. The body’s immune system mistakenly targets the thyroid gland in these conditions, leading to inflammation and subsequent dysfunction.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, occurs when the immune system attacks and damages the thyroid tissue.

Environmental Influences:

Environmental factors can impact thyroid health and contribute to developing thyroid disorders. Iodine deficiency, for example, is a well-known ecological factor that can lead to hypothyroidism.

Iodine is essential in producing thyroid hormones, and inadequate intake can disrupt thyroid function.

Stress and Lifestyle Factors:

Chronic stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices can contribute to thyroid disorders. Stress disrupts the delicate balance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, affecting hormone production and regulation.

Moreover, poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, and sedentary behavior can impact hormonal balance and thyroid function.

Types of disorders

1. Hypothyroidism:

Hypothyroidism, known as an underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce adequate thyroid hormones.

This deficiency slows the body’s metabolism, leading to fatigue, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, and cold sensitivity. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition, is the common cause of hypothyroidism.

2. Hyperthyroidism:

Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid condition characterized by excessive production of thyroid hormones. The accelerated metabolism associated with hyperthyroidism can manifest in symptoms like weight loss, rapid heartbeat, tremors, anxiety, irritability, and heat intolerance.

Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism.

3. Thyroid Nodules:

Thyroid nodules are abnormal growths or lumps that form within the thyroid gland. While nodules are benign, some can be cancerous.

Thyroid nodules are asymptomatic, but they may cause difficulty swallowing hoarseness, or a visible lump in the neck. Therefore, fine-needle aspiration, a biopsy procedure, is commonly performed to evaluate the nature of the nodules.

4. Thyroid Cancer:

Thyroid cancer develops when abnormal cells within the thyroid gland multiply uncontrollably. This condition is detected as a result of the evaluation of thyroid nodules.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer may include a lump in the neck, voice changes, difficulty swallowing, swollen lymph nodes, and persistent hoarseness. Early detection and prompt treatment are vital for managing thyroid cancer.


  1. Hypothyroidism (Underactive thyroid):
  2. Fatigue and lethargy
  3. Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  4. Sensitivity to cold
  5. Dry skin and hair
  6. Constipation
  7. Muscle weakness or stiffness
  8. Depression or mood changes
  9. Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating
  10. Menstrual irregularities or heavy periods
  11. Hyperthyroidism (Overactive thyroid):
  12. Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  13. Unexplained weight loss or increased appetite
  14. Sweating and heat intolerance
  15. Nervousness or anxiety
  16. Tremors or shaking hands
  17. Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  18. Fatigue or muscle weakness
  19. Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
  20. Changes in menstrual patterns or decreased libido
  21. Thyroid Nodules:
  22. A palpable lump or swelling in the neck
  23. Hoarseness or voice changes
  24. Difficulty swallowing or a sensation of pressure in the throat
  25. Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  26. Rarely, pain or tenderness in the thyroid area
  27. Thyroid Cancer:
  28. A lump or nodule in the neck (may be painless)
  29. Hoarseness or voice changes
  30. Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  31. Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  32. Persistent cough or coughing up blood (rare)

Modern medicine can play a vital role in preventing thyroid disorders by addressing underlying causes, promoting early detection, and implementing personalized preventive strategies.

From iodine supplementation programs and screening initiatives to managing autoimmune conditions and lifestyle modifications, these approaches can contribute to optimising thyroid health and reducing the burden of thyroid disorders.