Thyroid disorder can result from conditions that cause over-or under-function of the thyroid gland. When the gland produces too much thyroid hormone, the condition is known as hyperthyroidism. When the gland does not function sufficiently, there is too little thyroid hormone produced the condition is known as hypothyroidism. In addition to problems with the level of hormones made by the gland, both benign and malignant tumors (cancers) can cause enlargement of the thyroid gland or nodules (lumps) within the gland. Enlargement of the thyroid gland in the neck can cause symptoms that are directly related to the increase in the size of the organ such as difficulty swallowing and discomfort in front of the neck.
What is Thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a metabolism hormone-producing gland in the lower part of the neck, below Adam’s apple and it has a butterfly shape. It has two lobes attached by a middle part called the isthmus and is located in front of the trachea. The thyroid produces essential hormones required by the body that help regulate metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Thyroid hormones are also necessary for children to grow and develop.
The thyroid uses iodine to produce vital hormones. Thyroxine, also known as T4, is the primary hormone produced by the gland. After delivery via the bloodstream to the body’s tissues, a small portion of the T4 released from the gland is converted to triiodothyronine (T3), which is the most active hormone.
What Are the Most Common Thyroid Problems And Their Symptoms?
There are two main types of thyroid problems, one is hypothyroidism and another is hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a more common type of thyroid problems. Most people with hypothyroidism are women, especially those who are of reproductive age or middle-aged. (1)
In the case of hypothyroidism, the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormones T3 or T4 (or both). According to the American Thyroid Association, in the United States by far the most common reason for hypothyroidism is a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, where the body mistakenly attacks the thyroid, thus compromising its functioning. Hashimoto’s takes place due to an autoimmune response, which interferes with the normal production of hormones. Causes of Hashimoto’s disease can include high amounts of stress, nutrient deficiencies, low immune function, and toxicity. (2) However, on a worldwide level, an iodine deficiency in the diet is the number one cause of hypothyroidism.
The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are: (3)
- Persistent fatigue, lethargy, and sometimes depression or low motivation to exercise
- Moodiness and sometimes anxiety
- Intolerance to cold and frequently feeling chilly
- Dry hair and skin — skin might feel cool to the touch and the toes/fingers might look a blue/purple color in some cases
- Brain fog, trouble concentrating and forgetfulness
- A hoarse voice
- Unexplainable weight gain
- Constipation, bloating and other digestive issues
- Muscle weakness, sometimes aches or pains, and other discomforts
Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, is when the body has too much of the needed thyroid hormones. According to the American Thyroid Association, the No. 1 cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, but lumps on the thyroid or taking too much T4 in tablet form can also contribute to hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism commonly include: (4)
According to the American Thyroid Association, common symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include:
- an initial increase in energy
- fatigue over time sweating
- rapid pulse
- tremors in the hands
- problems sleeping
- thin skin
- fine and brittle hair
- muscle weakness
- frequent bowel movements
- unintended weight loss
- a light menstrual flow or fewer periods
Thyroid Problem Risk Factor:
Research shows that some of the most significant known risk factors for thyroid problems are,
- Deficiencies in three important nutrients which support healthy thyroid function– iodine, selenium, and zinc deficiency.
- Poor diet is high in processed foods with things like sugar or unhealthy fats. Too much caffeine and/or alcohol can also contribute to emotional stress and poor gut health.
- Emotional stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression: Mental stress can interfere with normal adrenal functioning wear down the entire immune system, kidneys, liver, and thyroid. (5)
- Reactions to some immunosuppressive medications. These may be used to manage other autoimmune disorders or even cancer.
- Genetic factors. Research shows that thyroid problems tend to run in families. (6)
- Pregnancy or other hormonal changes.
- Toxicity due to chemical exposure or contact with other environmental pollutants. (7)
- In the case of infants or young children, a genetic pituitary disorder, defective thyroid or lack of the gland entirely can sometimes be a cause. (8)