Patients Rising University presents an introduction to the diseases of the thyroid, including clear visuals and a DIY neck check.
Our thyroid gland plays a vital role in many body functions by regulating metabolism—the process of breaking down food to create energy. The gland secretes two hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These regulate metabolism – a process kept in check by the pituitary gland. An abnormally functioning thyroid gland will produce either too much or too little of the hormones, resulting in an imbalance that is broadly classified as thyroid disease.
There isn’t a typical description for a thyroid disease patient—this condition can affect men and women, the young and the old, it can be congenital or develop with age. Here is an overview of some of the most common types of thyroid diseases:
An abnormal growth of the thyroid gland, goiter can result from:
This autoimmune disorder causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland and leads to overproduction of thyroid hormones or hyperthyroidism. Diagnosed in about 0.5% of the U.S. population, Grave’s disease more commonly affects those between 30 and 50 years of age and women are eight-times more likely to suffer from this disease. Those who have autoimmune conditions are more likely to develop Grave’s disease. Risk factors include:
Disease symptoms include irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, goiter, health sensitivity, irritability, muscle weakness, trembling hands, trouble sleeping, and weight loss.
A condition more commonly diagnosed among women (2-10 times more susceptible), hyperthyroidism is characterized by overproduction of the thyroid hormone. About 1.2% of the U.S. population has hyperthyroidism, risk factors for which include:
While disease symptoms vary—nervousness or irritation, insomnia, shaky hands, diarrhea, weight loss, goiter—hyperthyroidism can lead to:
An underactive thyroid gland resulting from an autoimmune disease, thyroid resection, or radiation (among other reasons). Hypothyroidism is characterized by low thyroid hormone production. About 4.6% of the U.S. population is estimated to suffer from hypothyroidism, and similar to hyperthyroidism, women are more susceptible, as are those over 60 years of age. Risk factors for this condition include:
Symptoms may vary – fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold temperatures, constipation, joint and muscle pain, dry skin, heavy menstrual periods, depression, etc.
growing cancer can spread to the lymph nodes.
Part of any good self-care or preventive-care regimen should be the NECK CHECK. This is something you can do easily at home. All you need is a mirror, some water to drink, and some swallowing.
Be on the lookout for our article on specialists who treat thyroid-related conditions and tests commonly used to diagnose thyroid disease.
Patients Rising acknowledges the important contributions of Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, Ph.D. in this article. Improving patient access is our mission and we are happy to utilize a variety of experts to carry that out.
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