Thyroid Gland

Thyroid is a small gland which has the shape like a butterfly that sits low on the front of the neck. It is a vital hormone gland which plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and development of the human body. In other words, it helps to regulate many body functions by constantly releasing a steady amount of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. Thyroid Gland is a part of an endocrine system.

Thyroid Gland Image
Thyroid Gland Image

Thyroid gland produces two type of hormones T3 and T4. These hormones are necessary for all the cells in your body to work normally.

  • T3 – Triiodothyronine: This hormone contains three atoms of iodine and is often called T3.
  • T4 – Thyroxine: This hormone contains four atoms of iodine and is often called T4.

A normal thyroid gland produces about 80% (T4) and about 20% (T3). When the level of hormones drops very low, your heart rate may slower than normal and if it shoots up high then you may have a rapid heart rate. Therefore, to balance T3 and T4 hormones TSH plays a vital role.

TSH is produced by a gland in the brain called pituitary gland. When hormone levels are low in your body then pituitary gland makes more TSH and when hormone levels are high pituitary gland makes less TSH. In other words, TSH levels that are too high or too low can indicate your thyroid is not working properly.

There are specific kinds of thyroid disorders that includes:

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. It refers to a state in which a person’s thyroid hormones production is bellow normal. It is also called under active thyroid or low thyroid, which can slow down the metabolism rate of your body and can decrease the cardiac activity. Hypothyroidism affects women more frequently than men. Furthermore, blood tests are the only way to reliably confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.

Signs and symptoms of Hypothyroidism varies from person to person. But some symptoms can be easily confused with other disease.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

  • Hair Loss
  • Puffy Face
  • Dry Skin
  • Slow Heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Irregular Periods in women
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Cold Sensitivity
  • Tiredness
  • Sore Muscles
  • Joint Pain
  • Depression
  • Weight Gain
Hypothyroidism Symptoms Image

If you suspect your symptoms are the result of a thyroid problem, then it’s important you talk with your doctor. They can order a blood test, because If you have low level of Thyroxine (T4) and abnormally high level of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), you may have Hypothyroidism.

Treatment of Hypothyroidism

It involves daily intake of medicines suggested by your doctor and little change in your diet. It will definitely help return your body’s functions to normal. For example, I am on medicine ie Thyronorm 75mcg (Levothyroxine Sodium) suggested by my doctor. It is also important to check the thyroid levels on quarterly basis for proper monitoring of thyroid levels in your body.

Diet In Hypothyroidism

If we talk about diet plan, then there are certainly many do’s and dont’s.

What to Eat
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Gluten Free Grains & Seeds
  • Dairy Products
  • Non caffeinated Beverages
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Selenium rich food
What to avoid
  • Soy Foods
  • Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Spinach
  • Fruits & Starchy Plants ie. Sweet Potatoes, Peaches, Strawberries
  • Pine nuts
  • Peanuts

Also, a regular exercise plays an important role in your hypothyroidism management plan. The good news is that, you don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. In other words, you can start with swimming, walking and some yoga.

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Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormones. It refers to a state in which a person’s thyroid hormones production is above normal level. It is also called overactive thyroid. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate the metabolism rate of your body. As a result, it can cause weight loss and irregular heart activity. It is more common in women than men. Blood tests are the only way to reliably confirm a diagnosis.

Furthermore, having too much of thyroid hormones can cause unpleasant and potentially serious problems that may need treatment. Signs and symptoms of it varies from person to person. But some symptoms of it can be easily confused with other disease.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

  • Bulging Eyes
  • Abnormal Heart Rate
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight Loss
  • Irritability
  • Itching
  • Heat Intolerance
  • Stress
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vision Problem
  • Frequent Sweating
  • Irregular Mensuration
  • Nervousness
Hyperthyroidism Symptoms Image

If you suspect your symptoms are the result of a thyroid problem, it’s most important you talk with your doctor. They can order a blood test to measure the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. Because high levels of Thyroxine (T4) and low amounts of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) in blood indicates an overactive thyroid.

Treatment of Hyperthyroidism

Antithyroid medications (sometimes written as anti-thyroid medications) suggested by your doctor is a common treatment for hyperthyroidism. Hence, the goal of antithyroid medications is to prevent the thyroid from producing excess amounts of T3 and T4 hormones.

Diet In Hyperthyroidism

If we talk about diet plan, then there are certainly many do’s and dont’s. Although a healthy diet can’t cure or prevent hyperthyroidism. However, eating healthy foods may help ease hyperthyroidism symptoms.

What to Eat
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Potato
  • Honey
  • Red Meat
  • Cauliflower, Broccoli
  • Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry
  • Unsalted Nuts
What to avoid
  • Dairy Products
  • Soy Products
  • Salted Nuts and Seeds
  • Caffeine

Also, healthy eating, exercising and stress management plan can help ease hyperthyroid symptoms. Medication plays an important role in treating hyperthyroidism, but it is also important to do exercise on daily basis. So you can start with some simple exercises like walking, aerobics, pushups and yoga.

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Goiter

A Goiter is an abnormal enlargement of thyroid gland which is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of your neck. It indicates a condition, in which, thyroid grows abnormally. Goiter commonly develops as a result of iodine deficiency or due to thyroid problem. In other words, if your thyroid gland is producing too much hormones ie. (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism), you can develop a goiter. Women are more likely to develop a goiter than men.

Goiter Image
Enlarged Thyroid Image

It is important to know that, having a goiter doesn’t always mean that your thyroid gland is malfunctioning. However, an enlarged thyroid gland can produce a normal amount of hormones. Goiters are generally pain less but some times you may feel difficulty in swallowing food and breathing.

Symptoms

Very primary symptom of goiter is a noticeable swelling in front of the neck. Not all the goiter cause symptoms but in some cases people experience symptoms given below:

  • Tightness in throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Lump in neck
  • Coughing
  • Voice hoarseness
  • In severe cases, difficulty breathing

What causes goiter?

There are different conditions that causes Goiter.

Iodine Deficiency: The primary activity of the thyroid gland is to concentrate iodine from the blood to make thyroid hormone. The gland cannot make enough thyroid hormone if it does not have enough iodine.

Therefore, due to iodine deficiency the individual will become hypothyroid. Consequently, the pituitary gland in the brain senses the thyroid hormone level is too low and sends a signal Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to the thyroid. This hormone (TSH) stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone and to grow in size. Hence, this abnormal growth in size of thyroid is termed a “goiter.”

Hashimoto’s disease : The main cause of goiter in developed countries is autoimmune disease. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder. It damages your thyroid, causing low production of hormones ie. (Hypothyroidism).

As a result, sensing a low hormone level, your pituitary gland produces more Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) . This hormone stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone and to grow in size. This abnormal growth in size of thyroid is termed a “goiter.”

Hormonal Changes: Women leading to menopause can develop a goiter as there are so many hormonal changes occurs at that time. Women above age of 40 have more chances to develop it. Pregnancy also makes so many hormonal changes in women, so this can also lead to develop a goiter.

Family History: Hereditary factors may cause goiter. If one of the parent is suffering from it, then you may have chances to develop it as well.

How is goiter diagnosed?

  • Physical Examination: Your doctor may be able to tell if the thyroid gland has grown by feeling the neck area for nodules and signs of tenderness.
  • Ultrasound of the thyroid: It is a procedure which sends high frequency sound waves through thyroid to find out the gland’s size and nodules. It can be used to visualize the thyroid gland.
  • Hormone test: A blood test which measures the hormone levels of the body to check the proper working of thyroid.
  • CT scan: CT scan or MRI is used to measure the size of goiter.
  • Biopsy: In this procedure a small specimen is taken from thyroid tissue with a needle and send it to laboratory for further examination.

Treatment

Your doctor will decide on a course of treatment based on the size and condition of your goiter, and symptoms associated with it.

  • Medications: If you have hypothyroidism, then thyroid hormone replacement with levothyroxine will resolve the symptoms of it. This also slow down the release of thyroid stimulating hormone from your pituitary gland, often decreasing the size of the goiter.
  • Radioactive iodine treatment: This treatment is used in cases of an overactive thyroid gland. It involves taking radioactive iodine orally. Furthermore, iodine goes to thyroid gland through your bloodstream and kills thyroid cells. The treatment results in a diminished size of the goiter. However, After this treatment, the patient usually has to take thyroid hormone replacement therapy for the rest of his or her life.
  • Surgery: It is performed to remove all or part of your thyroid gland. It may also be needed if the goiter is large and causes problems with breathing and swallowing. Surgery is also sometimes used to remove nodules. It must be done if cancer is present. You may also need to take levothyroxine after surgery, depending on the amount of thyroid removed.

Diet and Yoga

Diet: If your goiter is caused by your diet then you may need to increase or decrease your iodine intake at home.

Kindly discuss your diet plan with your doctor. He/She will tell you how much iodine is required per day for keeping your thyroid healthy.

Yoga: Yoga brings many benefits to your overall health. It can help treat your thyroid gland naturally. Several studies have shown the positive effect of yoga for improving thyroid function.

However, it is important to know that Yoga can not cure but can help maintain and improve your thyroid function. Kindly note, Yoga is a complementary therapy and should not be used as a replacement for your existing medical treatment. Therefore, before you start practicing yoga for thyroid problems, make sure to consult with your doctor. 

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Graves’ Disease

Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder. It cause an over active thyroid gland and results in an over production of thyroid hormones. This condition is also known as hyperthyroidism. In this disease, your immune system creates antibodies known as thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI).

These antibodies then attach to healthy thyroid cells and can cause your thyroid to create too much thyroid hormone. It is most common form of hyperthyroidism. Although Graves’ disease may affect anyone, but it’s more common among women than men.

Graves Disease Image

What Causes Graves’ Disease?

In this disease, the immune system begins to fight against healthy tissues and cells in your body. In other words, your immune system usually produces proteins known as antibodies, which normally protects us from foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Sometimes your immune system mistakenly produces antibodies called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSI). Which targets your own healthy thyroid cells.

Furthermore, these antibodies (TSI) in Graves’ disease bind to receptors on the surface of thyroid cells and stimulate those cells to overproduce and release thyroid hormones. This results in an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

People who have an increased risk include:

  • Having another autoimmune disease also increases your risk for developing Grave’s disease.
  • A family history of Graves’ disease increases the chance of developing the condition.
  • Individuals who smoke too much are at higher risk of developing graves’ disease.
  • Women develop this disease more than men.
  • Individuals suffering from physical or mental stress.

Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease include:

  • Bulging eyes
  • Heat intolerance
  • Hand tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Graves’ dermopathy, with thick red skin on the shins
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Weight loss
  • Change in menstrual cycles
Graves Disease Symptoms

Diagnosis

Your doctor may order laboratory tests, if they suspect you have Graves’ disease. This will need to be confirmed by thyroid blood tests. A doctor who specializes in diseases related to hormones, known as an endocrinologist, may handle your tests and diagnosis.

How Is Graves’ Disease Treated?

Three treatment options are available for people with this disease:

Anti-thyroid medication: The most commonly utilized treatment for Graves’ disease is anti-thyroid medication. This medication helps prevent the thyroid gland from producing excess amounts of hormones by blocking the oxidation of iodine in the thyroid gland.

Radioactive iodine therapy: Radioactive iodine is taken orally and directly targets the thyroid gland. This usually requires you to swallow small amounts in pill form. When medication is taken, the radioactive iodine soon builds up in the thyroid gland and slowly destroys any overactive thyroid cells. Your doctor will talk to you about any precautions you should take with this therapy.

Thyroid Surgery: Because other treatments for Graves’ disease have steadily improved, surgery is now less common. However, it is still used if other treatments are unsuccessful. If surgery is necessary, your doctor may remove your entire thyroid gland to eliminate the risk of hyperthyroidism returning. But you will need thyroid hormone replacement therapy on an ongoing basis, if you opt for surgery. Most importantly, speak with your doctor to learn more about the benefits and risks of different treatment options.

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