What is your thyroid?
There is a lot of talk about the thyroid in weight-loss and health magazines and how it can drastically affect your mood and body, but what is a thyroid and where is it? The thyroid gland is located on your neck a little beneath the Adam’s apple.
The butterfly-shaped gland regulates bodily functions as energy, temperature, mood and weight by taking iodine from your diet and producing the thyroid hormone. Irregularities of the thyroid can disrupt the entire body.
By the Numbers
- Thyroid disorders are found in 0.8 per cent to 5 per cent of the population.
- Nearly 200 million people worldwide have a form of thyroid disease.
- The thyroid gland weighs about 20 grams.
- Thyroid disease is four to seven times more common in women.
Thyroid Disease Explained
Thyroiditis, or thyroid disease in layman’s terms, is an ‘inflammation of the thyroid gland’. The disease is a result of damage to the thyroid cells and falls under two broad categories: abnormal function of the thyroid, or abnormal growth (nodules) of the gland. The abnormal function of the thyroid occurs when the gland
is not producing enough thyroid hormone. This is referred to as hypothyroidism. Common symptoms are:
- Weight gain.
- Dry skin.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Low exercise stamina.
In the other case of thyroid disease, the gland leaks stored hormones which caused increased thyroid hormone in the blood, leading to thyrotoxicosis or hyperthyroidism. The common symptoms of hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) are:
- Weight loss.
- Irregular pulse.
Any of these symptoms alone or together could be a reason to see your doctor for a thyroid test. Standard thyroid exams are performed by your doctor touching the gland to check for masses or nodules; however, blood tests are not uncommon. It is common for the physical symptoms to show up after the change in mood, as the disease is a gradual one. Remain vigilant for mood swings as they can indicate a thyroid problem.Read More
Types of thyroiditis
Thyroid diseases fall under hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism; however, there are many classifications within these groups. For example:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: The most common thyroid disease in the United States and is usually permanent.
- Subacute thyroiditis: Caused by viruses; resolves within 12 to 18 months.
- Silent thyroiditis: An attack by antibodies. It is an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Drug induced: Caused by drugs, usually lithium, interferons, cytokines or amiodarone. Stops after suspended use of the drug.
- Radiation induced: Caused by a radiation treatment; usually permanent.
- Postpartum: Autoimmune disease; occurs after childbirth. Symptoms leave after 12 to 18 months.
- Acute thyroiditis: Caused by bacteria; cured after the infection is treated.
Thyroid disease is more common in women but tends to be genetic, so if someone in your family has a thyroid problem, talk to your doctor about regular screenings.
How to Treat Thyroid Disease
In many cases thyroid disease is not permanent and can be treated. The treatment plan depends on the thyroid type:
- Thyroid cancer:Cancerous thyroids are treated with surgery and may require lifelong treatment through hormone replacements.
- Thyroid nodules: It is important to get thyroid nodules checked regularly. However, most are benign and do not require treatment.
- Hypothyroidism: This type of thyroid disease only requires replacement of the thyroid hormone through a daily pill.
- Hyperthyroidism: Too much of the thyroid hormone in the body can require surgery, drugs or radioactive iodine-131.
- Autoimmune thyroiditis: Usually does not require treatment. However, it can
develop into hypothyroidism, in which case pills to regulate the gland are