The thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped gland that sits in the front of your neck right below your Adams apple. This little gland produces hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism. It also controls your energy level.
Thyroid problems are among the most common medical conditions, but they often go misdiagnosed for awhile. This is because thyroid symptoms will appear gradually. There are three main thyroid conditions. They are hypothyroidism or under-active thyroid, hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid and thyroid nodules.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormone thyroxine. The causes of hypothyroidism can be a few different things but the most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimotos thyroiditis. This is a condition in which the body’s own immune system will attack the thyroid gland and therefore, decrease the hormone production.
The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, dry skin and hair, heavy menstrual periods, constipation and slow thinking.
A severe and potentially symptom of hypothyroidism is called myxedema. This complication of hypothyroidism will produce profound drowsiness and extreme intolerance to the cold. Drowsiness will lead to lethargy which can lead to coma. These symptoms of hypothyroidism must have immediate medical treatment.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body over stimulates the thyroid. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves disease.
The most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism will include jitteriness, rapid heart beat or palpitations, feeling hot, weight loss, fatigue, frequent bowel movements and shorter menstrual periods. Some people with Graves disease will develop bulging of the eyes and eye irritations.
A severe symptom of hyperthyroidism is called a thyrotoxic crisis. The symptoms of this type of crisis will include a rapid pulse, increased fever and delirium. These symptoms require immediate medical intervention.
Thyroid nodules are common and are usually harmless. Only approximately four percent of thyroid nodules are cancerous. A fine needle aspiration biopsy is usually done to rule out the possibility of cancer.
Thyroid nodules will usually cause no symptoms. Sometimes if the cells in the nodule are producing thyroid hormones on their own you may exhibit symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Some people will complain of pain at the nodule site that runs into the jaw and the ear.
In rare cases the nodule may grow so big that it will affect swallowing and cause shortness of breath. If the nodule compresses on the voice box it can cause hoarseness.
Treatment of thyroid nodules depends on many factors. Some doctors will not treat the nodule, but they will monitor it for an increase in size or other complications that can arise.
No matter what type of thyroid disorder you may have it is important that you see your doctor and get treatment. Not getting the proper treatment for your thyroid disorder can lead to life threatening complications.
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