Symptoms and Treatments for Thyroid Disorders

Wednesday 10 February 2021
Thyroid Disorders

Table of Contents


I. The Function of the Thyroid

a. What do Thyroid Hormones Do?

II. Hyperthyroidism

a. Graves’ Disease

b. Thyroid Nodules

III. Hypothyroidism

a. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

b. Iodine Deficiency

IV. Medications for Thyroid Disorders


The Function of the Thyroid

The thyroid is a small but integral gland in the human body. This gland regulates metabolism and is essential for growth and development in the human body.

It consists of two lobes that lie against and around the windpipe. It is also connected to the voice box muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Thyroid tissue has many individual glands that are encased in connective tissue.

T3 and T4 are the two main thyroid hormones. Iodine found in our diet is essential for producing these hormones. The pituitary gland works with the thyroid gland to release the right amount of hormones into the bloodstream. If you are too hot or having temperature fluctuations during pregnancy, the thyroid gland produces more hormones. [1]

Thyroid disorders are fairly common and can cause unpleasant side effects that may impact your weight and mood. You may be prescribed medications like desiccated thyroid, Synthroid (levothyroxine), or Tapazole (methimazole). Read on to learn more about thyroid disorders.

a woman grabbing her neck

a. What do Thyroid Hormones Do?

The T3 and T4 are hormones responsible for thyroid regulation. The third hormone produced by the gland is calcitonin. Calcitonin is responsible for calcium and bone metabolism. T3 and T4 help increase the metabolic rate and make cells in the body work harder. These hormones have the following effects on the body:

  • Faster pulse and stronger heartbeat
  • Brain maturation in children
  • Growth (in children)
  • Activation of the nervous system (improved concentration and faster reflexes)
  • A rise in body temperature [1]

Hyperthyroidism

Thyroid disorders occur when the hormones are unbalanced. Hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid gland is producing too many thyroid hormones. This condition occurs in one percent of women and is less common in men. If the thyroid is producing too much of its hormone, you may experience:

  • Restlessness
  • Racing heart
  • Increased sweating
  • Shaking
  • Anxiety
  • Thin skin
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nervousness
  • Muscles weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Bulging eyes

When hyperthyroidism occurs, it is because of specific hyperthyroid disorders. It is essential to determine the type of hyperthyroid condition you are experiencing to ensure a proper treatment plan. A blood test is used to measure thyroid hormone in your blood and if the levels are high, then your thyroid is overactive. [2] 

a man yawning

a. Graves’ Disease

This is the most common form of hyperthyroidism, affecting 70 percent of people with an overactive thyroid. You are more likely to develop Graves’ if you are between 30 and 50 years old. Having a family member with this condition also increases your risk. If left untreated, it can lead to problems with the heart, bones, muscles, and menstrual cycle. Lupus, Addison’s disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes are also commonly linked to Graves’. Other symptoms that may accompany Graves’ include:

  • Trembling hands
  • Weight loss
  • Heat intolerance
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Goiter [3]

b. Thyroid Nodules 

An unusual growth on the neck near the thyroid is known as a thyroid nodule. A nodule forms when the cells in the thyroid overproduce. This is typically due to hyperthyroidism and an overproduction of thyroid hormones. If a family member has nodules, you are more likely to develop them as well. Less than five percent of thyroid nodules are cancerous. The types of nodules include:

  • Thyroid cysts: filled with fluid or partly solid fluid
  • Colloid nodules: one or more overgrowths of normal thyroid tissue that do not grow beyond the thyroid gland
  • Inflammatory nodules: occurs due to chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland [4]

Hypothyroidism 

Hypothyroidism results in an underactive thyroid. A thyroid that does not make enough hormone slows down your body processes. It can slow your metabolism and make you feel less energetic. An underactive thyroid can mimic other conditions, so a blood test is necessary for a proper diagnosis. Symptoms of hypothyroid include:

  • Dry skin
  • Change in the menstrual cycle
  • Constipation
  • Dry hair and hair loss
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Puffy face
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Problems with memory
  • Elevated cholesterol [5]

a. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

This type of hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid hormone does not meet the body’s needs. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that targets the thyroid. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks its systems. In this case, the immune system makes antibodies that attack and damage the thyroid tissue. This leads to an inflammation of the gland and eventually results in hypothyroidism. There may be no symptoms of Hashimoto’s at first. Symptoms can include:

  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Difficulty becoming pregnant
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Feeling cold
  • Constipation [6]

a woman bundled up in the snow

b. Iodine Deficiency

As mentioned earlier, iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, and a lack of iodine in the body can lead to hypothyroidism. The body does not make iodine, so it needs to come from the foods we eat. Cheese, milk, eggs, iodized table salt, seafood, soy sauce, and yogurt are good sources of iodine. Iodine deficiencies were much more common in the past and the introduction of iodized salt helped curb this problem.

Today, 30 percent of the world’s population is still at risk for iodine deficiency. Goiters may occur with this issue, causing an enlargement of the thyroid gland where nodules can develop. Those with a large goiter can have issues swallowing, lying down, and breathing. [7]

Medications for Thyroid Disorders

Because many thyroid disorders are genetic or inherited, medications are often necessary to combat symptoms. Medications like desiccated thyroid, Synthroid (levothyroxine), or Tapazole (methimazole) can help improve everyday function. Desiccated thyroid is a synthetic version of the main thyroid hormone and is a common treatment for those with hypothyroidism. Synthroid works the same way to improve underactive thyroid. [8]

On the flip side, Tapazole is used for the treatment of overactive thyroid. Tapazole functions by stopping the thyroid gland from creating too much thyroid hormone. This drug prevents iodine and peroxidase (an enzyme) from interacting with T3 and T4, decreasing thyroid hormone production. If you believe you are suffering from a thyroid disorder, talk to your doctor to discuss your symptoms. [9]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.