The thyroid is an important gland located in the throat. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate growth and development, metabolism, and body temperature. This gland can be hyperactive or hypoactive, leading to two different sets of symptoms.
It can be challenging to spot thyroid problems at first because their symptoms can be masked by other conditions. Simple Wellness Clinic Director – Dr. Dorian Quinn LAc, PScD explains the importance of the thyroid and the symptoms that can point to serious trouble if they are not caught in time.
Why is the Thyroid Important?
The thyroid produces a variety of hormones that are necessary for the proper function of the body. The thyroid is controlled by the pituitary gland, located below the brain in the skull. When the pituitary gland is triggered by an oversupply of hormones or an undersupply, the gland will change the amount of its hormone (TSH) and stimulate the thyroid to operate correctly.
The most well-known hormone produced by the thyroid is T4. This hormone and others are responsible for regulating several different systems in the body. Heat or cold sensitivity, weight gain or weight loss, and problems with growth and development in children can all point to the thyroid as a problem area.
Without the thyroid, it is necessary to take a prescription of synthetic hormones in order to return the body to its normal functioning state.
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid produces too many hormones. The body is not able to cope with this dysfunction, and it produces many noticeable side effects. The dangerous thing is that many of these symptoms can be mistaken for other conditions. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be challenging to spot, but a simple blood test at the doctor’s office can answer the question.
Several different conditions can cause hyperthyroidism. Graves’ disease causes the thyroid to produce more hormone than the body can use. Certain nodules may be overactive or toxic. Thyroiditis can release the hormones stored in the thyroid gland, causing hyperthyroidism that lasts only a few weeks or months. This condition can be painful or painless. Painless thyroiditis is most common after a woman has given birth.
Having too much iodine in the diet can cause hyperthyroidism as well. Overconsumption of iodized salt, as well as drugs that contain iodine, can cause this problem.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
These are the signs that patients and doctors should watch out for when they are evaluating a person for hyperthyroidism:
Nervousness and irritability are often mistaken for signs of clinical anxiety or chalked up to the stresses of daily life. A thyroid test should always be performed when a patient is experiencing anxiety or irritability.
Muscles in the body may be weak or experience tremors. Menstrual periods may be irregular and very light. The patient may have unexplained weight loss. Their sleep may be disturbed.
Their thyroid gland could be swollen visibly or to the touch. Hyperthyroidism can also cause eye irritation and vision problems. The patient may also be highly sensitive to heat.
Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid is not producing enough hormones to sustain the normal functioning of the body. There can be many different causes that interfere with the function of the thyroid and cause hypothyroidism. Autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis frequently cause this condition. People who have had surgery to remove the thyroid gland or who have had radiation therapy will also lose thyroid function.
In rare cases, a baby may be born without a thyroid, explains Dr. Dorian Quinn. All newborns are tested for this problem. When it goes untreated, the child will experience severe mental and physical developmental issues.
Certain medications can also cause hypothyroidism. For example, Dorian Quinn suggests that Interleukin-2, interferon alpha, amiodarone, and lithium could suppress the function of the thyroid gland. Lithium is commonly prescribed as a mood stabilizer for patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Fatigue is one of the most noticeable symptoms of hypothyroidism. If the patient is female, she may also experience heavy and frequent menstrual periods.
The patient may become forgetful or depressed. They may experience unexplained weight gain. Their skin and hair could be coarse and dry. Their voices may sound hoarse. They may be intolerant to cold as well.
Consequences of Untreated Thyroid Disorders
It is vital that patients are properly treated for hyper- or hypothyroidism. If these conditions go unchecked, the patient may experience severe consequences. If a pregnant woman has an untreated thyroid problem, the baby may have birth defects. They may also have significant physical and mental developmental challenges. If this problem is caught shortly after birth, the baby could be treated and experience a normal life.
Hypothyroidism can also cause heart disease because it raises the levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. When the body has too much LDL, it can lead to hardening of the arteries, strokes, and high blood pressure.
Hyperthyroidism is also dangerous when it is left untreated. Hyperthyroidism is also hard on the heart, but it causes different symptoms. The heart may develop arrhythmias. The patient may experience cardiac dilation and congestive heart failure. The patient is at a higher risk of cardiac arrest. They may also experience hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Hyperthyroidism also causes the loss of bone mineral density because it removes phosphate and calcium from the bones. It can lead to osteoporosis.
Testing is Vital According to Dorian Quinn
Dorian Quinn emphasizes the importance of thyroid testing. Thyroid testing should be a part of the annual physical for all patients. With proper treatment, hyper- and hypothyroidism can be manageable medical conditions that do not cause serious complications. When a person goes without treatment, they are setting themselves up for dangerous health effects later in life.