Understanding Thyroid Problems – The Basics

The thyroid gland secretes thyroid hormones; influences almost all the metabolic process of the body. Too much secretion of thyroid hormones results in hyperthyroidism. While insufficient hormone production leads to hypothyroidism.

Although the effect can be annoying and disagreeable, most thyroid hormones can be managed well if it is diagnosed and treated properly.

What Causes Thyroid Problems?

An overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) can occur in several ways:

  • Graves’ disease: The overproduction of thyroid hormone.
  • Toxic adenomas: Nodules are developed in the thyroid gland results overproduction of thyroid hormone; upsetting the body’s chemical balance.
  • Subacute thyroiditis: Inflammation of the gland causing excess hormones resulting in temporary hyperthyroidism.
    Pituitary gland malfunctions or cancerous growths in the thyroid gland: Rare, hyperthyroidism can develop from these causes.

An underproduction of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism) can occur in several ways:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: An autoimmune disorder, where the body attacks thyroid tissue. The tissue eventually dies and stops producing hormones.
  • Removal of the thyroid gland: The thyroid gland may have been surgically removed or chemically destroyed. Excessive Iodide: Some medicines contain too much iodine, which may give a greater risk for developing hypothyroidism.
  • Lithium: This drug may also be implicated as a cause of hypothyroidism.

What happens when untreated for a long time?

Untreated hypothyroidism for a long period of time can bring on a myxedema coma, a rare but potentially fatal condition that requires immediate hormone treatment.

Hypothyroidism is dangerous to newborns and infants. A lack of thyroid hormones at the early stage of development of the child may cause cretinism (mental retardation) and dwarfism (stunted growth). As in adults, in infants, hypothyroidism can be due to these causes:

  • A pituitary gland disorder
  • A defective thyroid gland
  • Lack of the gland entirely

The symptoms of a hypothyroid infant are unusually inactive and quiet, has a poor appetite, and sleeps for excessively long periods of time.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is quite rare and occurs in about 5% of thyroid nodules. One or more thyroid nodules for several years may be determined to be cancerous. People who have received radiation treatment to the head and neck earlier can tend to have a higher-than-normal risk of developing thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer can cause several symptoms:

  • The most common symptom, you may get a lump or swelling in your neck.
  • Your voice may be hoarse.
  • You may have pain in your neck and ears.
  • You may have trouble breathing or have constant wheezing.
  • You may have trouble in swallowing.
  • You may have a frequent cough that is not related to a cold.
Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors