What’s even more shocking than that is that nearly 60% of individuals with thyroid disease are completely unaware since symptoms can often be mild and are somewhat hard to detect without the use of routine blood work.
This is why it’s important to receive routine checkups with your healthcare practitioner and discuss new thyroid symptoms that you may be experiencing.
Because women are more prone to developing thyroid disorders, it’s crucial for women to be aware of the thyroid causes, how to identify symptoms, and when to seek medical advice. In this article, we’ll be covering all of the above.
That way, you’ll know what to look out for and feel more prepared should you encounter thyroid problems in the future.
Understanding The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is an organ located wrapped around the trachea or windpipe within the neck region. People often compare it to the shape of a butterfly because it is smaller in the center with two wings that extend outwards toward each side of the throat.
The thyroid is considered a gland, and similarly to all other glands located throughout the body, it also releases substances that help with specific bodily functions. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that control various mechanisms of action that are intrinsic to homeostasis.
When the thyroid isn’t working correctly, it can impact the entire body’s processes. For instance, if your body produces too much thyroid hormone, it can develop a condition known as hyperthyroidism.
Whereas hypothyroidism is when your body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Both of these thyroid conditions are serious and require medical treatment.
Who Could Suffer From Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid diseases can be developed by anyone – women, infants, teenagers, men, and even the elderly. In the case of hypothyroidism, it can also be present from birth or be developed later in life.
You may be at a higher risk of being affected by thyroid disease if you:
- Have a specific underlying medical condition such as diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, Turner syndrome, and Sjögren’s syndrome.
- Have been prescribed some form of medication that includes high levels of iodine, such as amiodarone.
- Have undergone treatment for past thyroid diseases or cancer, such as radiation therapy or thyroidectomy.
- One of the highest risk factors of developing thyroid disease is having a family record of past thyroid conditions.
- Are above the age of 60. Women become more prone as they age due to natural body processes, such as menopause.
Main Causes Of Thyroid Problems
There are two main types of thyroid disease. These are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Both are caused by underlying conditions that affect the thyroid gland’s function.
Conditions that can lead to developing hypothyroidism include:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – This type of condition is a painless disease. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is considered an autoimmune condition, and it’s where the body’s cells damage and attack the thyroid gland.
- Thyroiditis – This disorder consists of a form of inflammation of the thyroid. Thyroiditis can reduce the number of vital hormones the thyroid makes.
- Iodine deficiency – Iodine is routinely utilized by the thyroid during the process of hormone creation. Iodine deficiency is a common problem that affects millions of individuals around the globe.
- Postpartum thyroiditis – This type of thyroid disease occurs in approximately 9% of women post-childbirth. It’s normally a temporary condition that balances itself out during the postpartum recovery phase.
- Non-functioning thyroid – In some cases, the thyroid gland doesn’t work properly from birth. This affects approximately 1 in 5,000 infants. If ignored and left without treatment, the child experiences mental and physical problems in the future. All babies go through a routine blood test post-delivery to check their thyroid function.
Next, let’s take a look at the conditions that are known to cause hyperthyroidism:
- Nodules – Hyperthyroidism can be developed because of nodules that have become overactive within the thyroid region. When referring to a single nodule, these are most commonly known as a toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodule. Whereas when there are multiple nodules, it’s referred to as a toxic multinodular goiter.
- Graves’ disease – In this type of thyroid disease, the entire gland may be overactive, ultimately producing too much thyroid hormone. This condition is also known as diffuse toxic goiter.
- Excessive iodine – When there is too much iodine in the body, the thyroid begins to produce increased levels of thyroid hormone – more than what the body requires. Excessive iodine levels are due to taking prescription medications that may include iodine as an ingredient, such as is the case with amiodarone, certain cough syrups, and heart medications.
- Thyroiditis – This common thyroid disease can either be not felt at all or maybe extremely painful. This condition consists of the thyroid gland releasing stored hormones, and it is usually transient, lasting a couple of months at most.
Thyroid Disease Symptoms
Thyroid disease affects the production of hormones – it can either cause your body to produce too much or not enough. The effect that thyroid conditions have on the body is particularly unique to each individual and the level of dysregulation it has created in their hormone production.
With an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, some of the most common symptoms are delayed heart rate and a slower metabolism. Nevertheless, here are some additional symptoms:
- Joint pain
- Less sweating
- Dry and pale skin
- Muscle fatigue
- High cholesterol levels
- Puffiness in the face
- Weight gain
- Always feeling cold
Whereas in cases of an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism, the most common symptoms include faster heart rate and metabolism. The complete opposite of hypothyroidism. Below are some additional symptoms to watch out for:
- Increased appetite
- Enhanced sweating
- Sleep problems
- Sudden weight loss
- Irregular heartbeat
- Frequent bowel movements
Thyroid symptoms are known to affect women’s menstrual cycles – either resulting in heavy or irregular periods. If left untreated, thyroid disease can induce amenorrhea, which is when women’s periods stop for months.
Oftentimes, thyroid symptoms in women can be erroneously mistaken for symptoms of menopause. And, in some cases, thyroid conditions that have been left untreated lead to early induced menopause.
Thyroid causes can further affect ovulation, making it extremely difficult for women to conceive – this can be frustrating, especially when couples are actively trying to get pregnant. Lastly, women with thyroid conditions may also encounter health issues during pregnancy.
Treatment Options For Thyroid Disease
Your medical provider’s objective is to balance your thyroid hormone levels back to normal. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, and each treatment route will depend on the underlying thyroid causes.
If you’re experiencing high levels of thyroid hormones or hyperthyroidism, treatment options may include:
- Anti-thyroid medications: Your doctor may pick a thyroid treatment with the use of drugs that inhibit your thyroid from producing excess hormones.
- Beta-blockers: These drugs don’t alter the level of hormones found within your body, yet they do assist in controlling thyroid symptoms.
- Radioactive iodine: This thyroid treatment plan induces damage to thyroid cells, ultimately stopping them from producing such high levels of hormones.
- Surgery: This consists of a more permanent solution, whereby the healthcare provider surgically removes the thyroid gland. This thyroid treatment will stop the thyroid from rendering its function and creating hormones. Nevertheless, individuals who opt for this route will need to take routine thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of their life.
If you’re experiencing low levels of thyroid hormones or hypothyroidism, treatment options may include:
- Thyroid replacement prescriptions medication: This thyroid treatment includes drugs that add thyroid hormones into the body. A commonly used medication for the treatment of thyroid disease is levothyroxine.
Well-Known Risk Factors Of Thyroid Disease
Individuals who have a genetic or family predisposition to thyroid disease are more at risk of developing them in the future. Women above the age of 60 are also at an increased risk.
Likewise, people with certain underlying conditions such as diabetes type 1 may encounter more risk of developing some form of thyroid disorder.
Thyroid abnormalities occur due to Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, and medications that contain amiodarone or lithium, iodine excess or deficiency, as well as pituitary gland issues.
It’s also important to note that thyroid cancer is more commonly diagnosed in people who have undergone previous neck or head radiation treatment.
It’s always advisable to monitor your health and take note of any abnormal or new thyroid symptoms you may experience. If this does occur, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Improved health is a vital component of wellbeing and happiness. It also plays a crucial role in job success as healthy individuals are proven to be more productive and live longer.
All of our organs have an important role when it comes to making you the happiest and healthiest version of yourself. This includes the thyroid gland and overall hormonal issues.
Therefore, if you feel like you’re experiencing early symptoms of thyroid disease, seek out medical advice. Your healthcare provider will help diagnose and put together a thyroid treatment plan that will work for your unique thyroid condition.