The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that is located in the lower neck region. It plays a vital role in regulating the metabolism. In this article, we will look into abnormal thyroid symptoms along with the treatment of an abnormal thyroid.
Hormones are chemical messengers that act on the cells and tissues and act as catalysts for a variety of chemical reactions that are vital for the body. These are secreted by endocrine glands of the human body. Thyroid gland is one such endocrine gland that secretes hormones that regulate metabolism and facilitate various bodily processes that are vital for growth and development. This butterfly-shaped gland is located below the Adam’s apple in the lower neck region. The hormones that are secreted by this gland are referred to as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
The hormones secreted by the thyroid gland help in regulating the body temperature and also facilitate the conversion of energy from the food. Thyroid hormones also have a great impact on the rate at which the energy is produced and used up. Since thyroid gland helps in regulating metabolism and affects the overall growth and development, various symptoms may appear if the thyroid gland is not functioning normally. Given below is some information on abnormal thyroid symptoms and ways of alleviating these symptoms.
What Causes Thyroid Disorders?
One is diagnosed with an abnormal thyroid when the thyroid hormones are not secreted in a normal fashion. Hyperthyroidism is used to signify a condition when the thyroid gland becomes overactive, and the thyroid levels are way beyond the levels needed for maintaining proper metabolism. Hypothyroidism is another thyroid condition wherein the thyroid gland becomes sluggish and is unable to secrete sufficient amounts of thyroid hormones. Sluggish thyroid gland could result from an iodine deficiency.
At times, the thyroid gland may even get affected due to autoimmune thyroid disease. This is a condition wherein the antibodies lose their ability to differentiate the cells of the body from the foreign invaders. Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease are both autoimmune thyroid disorders, wherein the antibodies target the thyroid follicles and affect the secretion of thyroid hormones. Thyroid disorders in children may be attributed to autoimmune thyroid disease. One may be born with an underactive thyroid, or develop a thyroid disease later in life.
Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders
The symptoms of an abnormal thyroid will depend on the type of thyroid disease one is diagnosed with. If the thyroid hormones are secreted in excessive amounts, the rate at which energy is produced as well as expended increases. This leads to symptoms such as weight loss, increased bowel movements and increased appetite. The thyroid gland may become hyperactive due to secretion of excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. The symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland include intolerance to heat, excessive sweating, tremors, nervousness, rapid heart rate, fatigue and decreased concentration.
If the thyroid gland is producing insufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, the rate at which the energy is produced and used up will be slower. Symptoms such as constipation and weight gain are the direct result of slow metabolism. Since thyroid gland also helps in regulating the body temperature, one may also develop intolerance to cold or have a low basal temperature. Other symptoms of a sluggish thyroid gland include poor memory, decreased concentration, depression, dry skin and hair, brittle fingernails, hair loss, muscle weakness, muscle cramps and low energy levels.
Treatment of Thyroid Disorders
If the doctors suspect the patient to be suffering from an overactive or a sluggish thyroid, the first thing they do is ask the patient to get his/her thyroid levels tested. This can be done with the help of blood tests. The blood tests can provide the doctors with the information on levels of T3, T4 and TSH.
TSH stands for thyroid-stimulating hormone. TSH is a hormone that is released by the pituitary gland. This hormone stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. Thus, testing for TSH levels can provide insights on the functioning of the thyroid gland. Besides these blood tests, imaging procedures can also help in the detection of other thyroid gland problems. These tests can indicate the presence of thyroid nodules or growths within the thyroid gland.
As far as the drug therapy is concerned, the nature of drugs again depends on the type of thyroid disease the patient has been diagnosed with. If the gland is unable to secrete sufficient amounts of hormones, synthetic levothyroxine pills are prescribed for the treatment. If the gland is producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, the use of antithyroid drugs is recommended.
Another treatment option that may be considered is the use of radioactive iodine. Since radioactive iodine helps in destroying the thyroid tissue, it is also used for treating thyroid cancer. In severe cases, where the drugs don’t have the required effect, doctors may recommend the surgical removal of thyroid gland. Once the thyroid gland is removed, the patient will have to rely on synthetic thyroxine for the rest of his life.
This was a brief overview on thyroid gland function and the symptoms that may be caused due to thyroid gland dysfunction. Since thyroid gland disorders can have a serious impact on one’s health, anyone who experiences the aforementioned symptoms must seek medical help at the earliest.