Your thyroid creates and produces hormones that play a role in many different systems throughout your body. When your thyroid makes either too much or too little of these important hormones, it’s called a thyroid disease. There are several different types of thyroid disease, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
What causes thyroid disease?
The two main types of thyroid disease are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Both conditions can be caused by other diseases that impact the way the thyroid gland works.
Conditions that can cause hypothyroidism include:
- Thyroiditis: an inflammation (swelling) of the thyroid gland. Thyroiditis can lower the amount of hormones your thyroid produces.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: A painless disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the body’s cells attack and damage the thyroid. This is an inherited condition.
- Postpartum thyroiditis: This condition occurs in 5% to 9% of women after childbirth. It’s usually a temporary condition.
- Iodine deficiency: Iodine is used by the thyroid to produce hormones. An iodine deficiency is an issue that affects several million people around the world.
- A non-functioning thyroid gland: Sometimes, the thyroid gland doesn’t work correctly from birth. This affects about 1 in 4,000 newborns. If left untreated, the child could have both physical and mental issues in the future. All newborns are given a screening blood test in the hospital to check their thyroid function.
Conditions that can cause hyperthyroidism include:
- Graves’ disease: In this condition the entire thyroid gland might be overactive and produce too much hormone. This problem is also called diffuse toxic goiter (enlarged thyroid gland).
- Nodules: Hyperthyroidism can be caused by nodules that are overactive within the thyroid. A single nodule is called toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodule, while a gland with several nodules is called a toxic multi-nodular goiter.
- Thyroiditis: This disorder can be either painful or not felt at all. In thyroiditis, the thyroid releases hormones that were stored there. This can last for a few weeks or months.
- Excessive iodine: When you have too much iodine (the mineral that is used to make thyroid hormones) in your body, the thyroid makes more thyroid hormones than it needs. Excessive iodine can be found in some medications (amiodarone, a heart medication) and cough syrups.
If you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk of developing a thyroid disease than people without diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. If you already have one autoimmune disorder, you are more likely to develop another one.
For people with Type 2 diabetes, the risk is lower, but still there. If you have Type 2 diabetes, you’re more likely to develop a thyroid disease later in life.
Regular testing is recommended to check for thyroid issues. Those with Type 1 diabetes may be tested more often — immediately after diagnosis and then every year or so — than people with Type 2 diabetes. There isn’t a regular schedule for testing if you have Type 2 diabetes, but your healthcare provider may suggest a schedule for testing over time.
If you have diabetes and get a positive thyroid test, there are a few things to you can do to help feel the best possible. These tips include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Watching your diet
- Taking all of your medications as directed
- Getting tested regularly as directed by your healthcare provider
What common symptoms can happen with thyroid disease?
There are a variety of symptoms you could experience if you have a thyroid disease. Unfortunately, symptoms of a thyroid condition are often very similar to the signs of other medical conditions and stages of life. This can make it difficult to know if your symptoms are related to a thyroid issue or something else entirely.
For the most part, the symptoms of thyroid disease can be divided into two groups — those related to having too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) and those related to having too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism).
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can include:
- Experiencing anxiety, irritability and nervousness
- Having trouble sleeping
- Losing weight
- Having an enlarged thyroid gland or a goiter
- Having muscle weakness and tremors
- Experiencing irregular menstrual periods or having your menstrual cycle stop
- Feeling sensitive to heat
- Having vision problems or eye irritation
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can include:
- Feeling tired (fatigue)
- Gaining weight
- Experiencing forgetfulness
- Having frequent and heavy menstrual period
- Having dry and coarse hair
- Having a hoarse voice
- Experiencing an intolerance to cold temperatures
Can thyroid issues make me lose my hair?
Hair loss is a symptom of thyroid disease, particularly hypothyroidism. If you start to experience hair loss and are concerned about it, talk to your healthcare provider.
How is thyroid disease diagnosed?
- Signs and symptoms
- Blood work
- Physical exam
The specific blood tests that will be done to test your thyroid can include: TSH, T3.T4
Additional blood tests might include:
- Thyroid antibodies:These tests help identify different types of autoimmune thyroid conditions. Common thyroid antibody tests include microsomal antibodies (also known as thyroid peroxidase antibodies or TPO antibodies), thyroglobulin antibodies (also known as TG antibodies), and thyroid receptor antibodies (includes thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins [TSI] and thyroid blocking immunoglobulins [TBI]).
- Calcitonin: This test is used to diagnose C-cell hyperplasia and medullary thyroid cancer, both of which are rare thyroid disorders.
- Thyroglobulin: This test is used to diagnose thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation) and to monitor treatment of thyroid cancer.
Your physician will go over all of the blood work and discuss normal and abnormal ranges and what they mean.
How is thyroid disease treated?
Your healthcare provider’s goal is to return your thyroid hormone levels to normal. This can be done in a variety of ways and each specific treatment will depend on the cause of your thyroid condition.
Treatment can be surgery, medications, or a combination of both.
Can I live a normal life with a thyroid disease?
A thyroid disease is often a life-long medical condition that you will need to manage constantly. This often involves a daily medication. Your healthcare provider will monitor your treatments and make adjustments over time. However, you can usually live a normal life with a thyroid disease. It may take some time to find the right treatment option for you and manage your hormone levels, but then people with these types of conditions can usually live life without many restrictions.
Here is to your good health,