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The thyroid, once a little-known organ, has received a lot of attention in recent years, mostly because of the critical role it plays in the body’s metabolism. Numerous issues, including hyperthyroidism, can result from the thyroid not functioning properly. We’ll go into more detail about this condition in honor of Thyroid Awareness Month.
What Is the Purpose of the Thyroid?
A little gland in the neck, in front of the windpipe, called the thyroid is shaped like a butterfly. Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine are the hormones that are produced by it (T4). The metabolism of the organism, or how each cell uses energy, is governed by the T3 and T4 hormones.
When the thyroid produces excessive amounts of these thyroid hormones, a condition known as hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, results. Only a little more than 1% of Americans have hyperthyroidism. Although both sexes can be affected by hyperthyroidism, women are nearly 10 times more likely than men to have the condition, and it often first manifests between the ages of 20 and 40.
Signs of an underactive thyroid
Numerous issues, ranging from weight fluctuations to problems with fertility, can happen when the thyroid isn’t working properly. Although hyperthyroidism is accompanied by several symptoms, many of them are ambiguous and also present in other diseases, which may make the diagnosis difficult for medical professionals.
Below is a list of some signs of hyperthyroidism:
- Loss of weight
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Being too heat-sensitive
- Irregular cycles
- Diarrhea or frequent bowel motions
- Goiter (enlarged region at the base of the neck) (enlarged area at the base of the neck)
- Higher appetite
- Heightened perspiration or clammy skin
- Loss of hair or thinning
- Elongated eyes Note: Graves’ disease, a particular form of hyperthyroidism, exhibits this symptom.
- Hand trembling
- Increasing blood pressure
- Quick heartbeat
- Male breast development
What Factors Influence Thyroid Function Change?
The thyroid’s capacity to function can be influenced by a variety of factors, including:
- Graves’ disease: This autoimmune condition causes the thyroid to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. More than 80% of cases of an overactive thyroid are brought on by it. Graves’ disease is inherited (passed down through families). There is a possibility that other family members may also develop Graves’ disease if one member of your family does. Women are more likely than men to have it. The most typical cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease.
- Toxic Adenoma: These benign thyroid growths, also known as toxic multi-nodular goiter or Plummer disease, cause the thyroid to expand and overproduce T4.
- Thyroiditis: This thyroid inflammation can happen for a variety of reasons, including some viral infections. The cause is frequently unknown.
- Pituitary Issues: The thyroid gland’s inability to function properly might be caused by issues with the pituitary gland. Because every component of the body’s endocrine system interacts closely with one another, issues that arise in one component may spread to others.
- Iodine: Iodine is present in many green leafy vegetables, although sea kelp and other seaweeds are the best sources. Table salt also has an iodine derivative added to it.
- Overmedicating an Underactive: Thyroid is simply taking too much thyroid hormone.
- Tumors: These can develop on the testicles or ovaries and can influence the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones.
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Simply taking some blood can be used to test for hyperthyroidism. The levels of thyroid hormones can be determined by a doctor running a thyroid panel. The following signs of hyperthyroidism are typically present in the patient:
- TSH levels are low, and
- T3 and free T4 levels are high.
Doctors are learning that because the range is so wide, even if a person’s results fall within the “normal” range, there may still be an issue. Additionally, not all doctors are adept at diagnosing thyroid issues or interpreting test results. This may result in a doctor repeatedly misdiagnosing or completely ignoring a patient with hyperthyroidism.
Let your doctor know if you’re taking biotin or stop taking it for a few days before your thyroid blood test because taking it can result in false results on the thyroid panel.
Thyroid hormones have a very wide normal range, which varies between nations and labs.
- T4 = 5.6–13.7 mcg/dL (micrograms/deciliter)
- Free T4 = 0.8–1.5 ng/dL (nanograms/deciliter)
- T3 = 87-180 ng/dL
- Free T3 = 230–420 pg/dL (picograms/deciliter)
- TSH = 0.4–4.5 mIU/L or mU/L (milli-international units per liter).
These ranges are so wide that even if a person falls within the “average” range, there may still be a problem. Some endocrinologists will administer treatment to a patient whose T3 or T4 levels are above normal.
The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism may also benefit from a physical exam because some symptoms, such as those listed below, can be quite obvious.
- Swaying of the fingers
- Excessive reflexes
- Moist, warm skin
- Iumpy, enlarged thyroid
- Quick or irregular heartbeat
- Eye movements
You might occasionally also need to have your neck examined with an ultrasound.
In most cases, hyperthyroidism can be treated easily. Several prescription drugs work by reducing the amount of T4 and T3 the thyroid produces. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and drawbacks of these treatments because, like all medications, they may have some side effects.
A beta-blocker, which is typically prescribed to treat heart conditions, may be prescribed; while it doesn’t treat hyperthyroidism, it can alleviate some of its symptoms, including palpitations and tremors. Most symptoms will be relieved by medication within 12 weeks or so, and your thyroid hormone levels will return to normal. To keep your hormone levels in check after that, you might need to take medication.
Radioactive iodine is another possibility for treatment. The aberrant thyroid cells that are overproducing hormones absorb radioactive iodine. Although this type of treatment can lead to hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, this will eventually cause the cells to die and the thyroid to return to normal. You would need to take medications to restore your T3 and T4 levels to normal if you developed hypothyroidism. About 70% of cases of hyperthyroidism are treated with radioactive iodine, which is thought to be safe.
Another alternative is to completely remove the thyroid gland surgically. You will, however, require replacement thyroid hormones for the rest of your life once the thyroid has been removed. Given that every surgical procedure carries some inherent risks, choosing surgery should be carefully evaluated.
Overall, hyperthyroidism is a treatable condition, but if it is ignored, it can lead to other serious issues like heart issues or infertility. Visit your doctor right away for testing if you think you might have a thyroid issue.