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Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid disorders are conditions that affect the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid has important roles to regulate numerous metabolic processes throughout the body. Different types of thyroid disorders affect either its structure or function.

There are specific kinds of thyroid disorders that include:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Goitre
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Thyroid cancer

Hypothyroidism

There are several causes of hypothyroidism, including autoimmune disease, treatment for hyperthyroidism, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery and certain medications. The most common cause is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's disease.


Symptoms for Hypothyroidism

  • Fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Increased sensitivity to the cold
  • Constipation
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Muscle weakness, aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Joint pain, stiffness or swelling
  • Light or irregular periods
  • Brittle fingernails and hair
  • Depression
  • Forgetfulness

Hyperthyroidism

In 70% of the cases, hyperthyroidism results from an autoimmune disorder known as Graves' disease, a condition in which the body’s own antibodies attack the thyroid. This causes it to produce too much of the hormone thyroxin, which speeds up the body's metabolism in turn.


Symptoms for Hypothyroidism

  • Sudden, unexplained weight loss
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
  • Hand tremors
  • Changes in menstrual patterns
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bulging eyes
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goitre) that can appear as a swelling at the base of the neck
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Restlessness and insomnia

Treatment

Thyroid disorders can be treated by medications or, in some cases, surgery. Treatment will depend on the particular disease of the thyroid.

  • Thyroid medications - Medications can be given to replace the missing thyroid hormone in hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroid surgery - Surgery can be used to remove a large goitre or a hyper functioning nodule within the gland. Surgery is necessary when there is a possibility of thyroid cancer.