Understanding Your Thyroid

Your thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck; just above your collarbone. Your thyroid is one of your endocrine glands, meaning is makes hormones. Your thyroid is responsible for setting your metabolism – how your body gets its energy from the foods you consume.

In the United States, millions of people suffer from thyroid disease – a majority of them being women. If you have thyroid disease, your body uses energy more slowly or quickly than a healthy thyroid should. A thyroid gland that is underactive is referred to as hypothyroidism. A thyroid gland that is overactive is known as hyperthyroidism.

Let’s take a look at the two.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is most commonly the result of inflammation of the thyroid gland which causes damage to the cells o the thyroid. Autoimmune thyroiditis is the result of the immune system attacking the thyroid gland; this is often seen in pregnant women. Hypothyroidism can also be the result of a birth defect, radiation treatments to the neck area, radioactive iodine, viral thyroiditis and surgical removal of a portion of your thyroid gland.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:

  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Heavy menstrual cycles
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Paleness
  • Thin, brittle fingernails and hair
  • Weakness
  • Unintentional weight gain

If hypothyroidism is left untreated, you may experience decreased smell, decreased taste, hoarseness, thickening of the skin, thinning of the eyebrows, swelling in the hands, feet and face as well as slow speech.

Treatment for hypothyroidism centers around replacing the thyroid hormone that is missing. This is commonly achieved through the use of medication. Your doctor will likely prescribe Levothyrozine in as low a dose as possible; but enough to be effective.

Hyperthyroidism:

Hyperthyroidism is a thyroid condition where your thyroid produces too much of the thyroid hormone, known as thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can significantly increase your body’s metabolism.

Causes of hyperthyroidism can include Grave’s disease, toxic adenoma, Plummer’s disease and thyroiditis. Any of these conditions can cause your body to release too much thyroxine.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include:

  • Sudden weight loss without any changes in your diet
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Menstrual changes
  • Swelling of the neck
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in bowel patterns
  • Trouble sleeping

Treatment options for this condition can vary based on age, physical condition and how severe your condition is. Treatment may include:

  • Radioactive iodine
  • Anti-thyroid medications
  • Beta blockers
  • Surgery to remove a majority of your thyroid gland

There are other approaches you can take, in addition to medication or surgery, that can help you to feel better. Talk to your doctor about supplementing your diet. If you’ve lost a great deal of weight, you may benefit from increasing your caloric intake or adding protein to your diet. You can also ask your doctor about your calcium and vitamin D intake. This is important because hyperthyroidism can contribute to a decrease in bone density.

 

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