Thyroid Diseases: Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

    The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of your neck. The function of the thyroid gland is to produce hormones that are vitally important to the body’s metabolism and regulate other important bodily functions, including our nervous system, heart rate, breathing, muscle strength, and body temperature. The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system and takes iodine, found in many foods, to convert it to produce thyroid hormone. Iodine deficiency can lead to the development of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) and goiter (thyroid enlargement). Since iodine isn’t produced in the body naturally, it is important to make sure that you’re getting enough iodine through your diet.


    Kinds of thyroid disorders?

    Stressful work culture and a sedentary lifestyle can put a lot of pressure on this gland. Here are some factors that can affect the thyroid:


    • Autoimmune diseases
    • Iodine deficiency
    • Inflammation caused by a virus or bacteria
    • Nodules, or non-cancerous lumps
    • Cancerous tumours
    • Certain medical treatments
    • Some genetic disorders


    Conditions affecting the delivery of thyroid hormone come under two categories: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.




    When the thyroid gland doesn’t create or release enough thyroid hormone into your body, it can lead to problems within the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, or hypothalamus. 


    Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism are: 


    • Dry skin
    • Fatigue
    • Constipation
    • Feeling cold
    • Poor concentration
    • Fluid retention
    • Muscle and joint aches
    • Depression
    • Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding in women


    Hypothyroidism is more widespread in women and people over age 50. If you have any symptoms of an underactive thyroid, it is best to consult your doctor. You may be advised to go for a blood test to measure the amount of thyroid hormone and TSH in your blood. 



    When the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormones than your body needs, the condition is called hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid. 


    Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:


    • Increased appetite
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Restlessness
    • Weakness
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Itching
    • Hair loss
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Nervousness


    Hyperthyroidism is largely seen in women between the ages of 20 and 40 years. It is best to consult your doctor when you have moist skin, rapid pulse, and eye changes. 




    It refers to abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. One of the main causes of goiters is iodine deficiency. Without enough iodine, the thyroid gland has to work harder, leading to a swollen gland. 


    Symptoms of goiter include:


    • Neck vein swelling
    • Dizziness
    • Hoarseness (scratchy voice)
    • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
    • Coughing
    • Wheezing


    There are several tests available including physical examination, hormone test, antibody test, and thyroid scan to diagnose goiter.


    Thyroid cancer


    When malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland, it leads to thyroid cancer.




    • Painless lump in the front of the neck
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck
    • Pain in your neck and throat


    Though there are no symptoms at first, when it grows it may lead to pain and swelling in your neck. While some cancers are very slow in growth, others can be very aggressive.


    Risk factors
    There are certain risk factors that increase the risk of thyroid disorders. These factors may vary by age, sex, race, ethnicity, and geography. Some lifestyle factors include: 


    • Psychological stress
    • Smoking
    • Injury or trauma to the thyroid
    • Taking certain medications in high amounts
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