The 6 Most Common Thyroid Disorders

Feature | woman checking her thyroid | The Most Common Thyroid Disorders | thyroid gland

Be aware of these common thyroid disorders and keep your thyroid health in check.

RELATED: Eat These 9 Iodine Rich Foods For A Healthier Thyroid

In this article:

  1. Hyperthyroidism
  2. Hypothyroidism
  3. Hashimoto’s Disease
  4. Grave’s Disease
  5. Goiter
  6. Thyroid Nodules

6 Thyroid Disorders You Need To Look Out For

What Are Thyroid Disorders?

The thyroid gland, the butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of the neck below the Adam’s apple, is part of the endocrine system. This complex network of glands is responsible for many physiological processes in the body such as metabolism, growth and development, sexual function, sleep, mood, and many more.

One of the thyroid gland’s major role is the production of the T4 (thyroxine) hormone, which, a portion of, is converted to T3 (triiodothyronine) when released in the bloodstream. These two thyroid hormones play a part in metabolism.

Some thyroid disorders are caused by the abnormal production of the thyroid hormones. Others are autoimmune disorders and some are brought by the growth of tissues and the formation of nodules.

Below are the 6 most common thyroid disorders.

1. Hyperthyroidism

Patients with hyperthyroidism have overactive thyroids. This means their thyroids produce more T4 and T3 hormones than normal.

By the numbers, this disorder happens to 1% of all Americans and affects more women than men.

Hyperthyroidism Causes

  • Toxic Nodule or Toxic Multinodular Goiter – The growth of a single lump or nodules in the thyroid can cause the gland to produce more hormones than necessary.
  • Grave’s Disease – This is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid affecting its hormone production.
  • Sub-acute Thyroiditis – This inflammation of the thyroid caused by a virus can lead to the gland’s overactivity.
  • Post-partum Thyroiditis – Some women may develop hyperthyroidism within a few months after birth.
  • Excessive Iodine Ingestion – Since the thyroid functions with the help of iodine, food sources rich in iodine may cause hyperthyroidism in some patients.
  • Overmedication of Thyroid Hormone – The intake of too much thyroid hormone replacement can induce hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms

  • irregular heartbeat
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • hand tremors
  • increased sweating
  • weight loss
  • thin skin
  • brittle hair and nails
  • bulging eyes (in Grave’s disease)

Hyperthyroidism Diagnosis

A blood test to measure the Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH) and T4 levels in the blood can determine the occurrence of the disorder. High level of t4 and low level of TSH in the blood indicate an overactivity of the thyroid gland.

Hyperthyroidism Treatment

  • Intake of antithyroid medications like methimazole (Tapazole) can prevent the thyroid from secreting its hormones.
  • The use of radioactive iodine can damage the thyroid gland, giving a halt to its hormone production.
  • Patients can have their thyroids surgically removed.

2. Hypothyroidism

hypothyroidism written on paper | The Most Common Thyroid Disorders | thyroid diseases
Hypothyroid medication

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too little hormones—it’s underactive.

Five people out of 100 in the ages 12 and above in the United States have this disorder. Most cases of hypothyroidism are mild.

Hypothyroidism Causes

  • Hashimoto Thyroiditis – Another autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid’s hormone production.
  • Over-response to Hyperthyroidism Treatment – The use of radioactive iodine and antithyroid medication in hyperthyroidism patients may lead to the over-de-escalation of the thyroid hormones.
  • Thyroid Surgery – When a huge portion or all of the thyroid gland is removed, hormone production can be decreased or put into a halt. In these cases, patients will need to take thyroid hormones for life.
  • Pregnancy – During pregnancy, the body may produce antibodies hostile to the mother’s own thyroid. This may lead to the development of hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy.
  • Iodine Deficiency – Since the thyroid needs iodine to function, too little iodine in the body may cause this disorder.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Weight gain
  • High blood cholesterol level
  • Thinning hair
  • Impaired memory
  • Goiter

Hypothyroidism Diagnosis

Just like with hyperthyroidism, a blood test can tell if one has an underactive thyroid gland. When thyroxine levels are low, and TSH levels are high, the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones.

Hypothyroidism Treatment

The standard treatment for this disorder is the intake of the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine like Levo-T, Synthroid, and others. This medication can restore the function of the thyroid, but too much of it can lead to hyperthyroidism.

3. Hashimoto’s Disease

This is an autoimmune disease also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. As the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid, the gland gets inflamed and its function is compromised.

This condition is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism. If you have Hashimoto’s disease, you’ll develop hypothyroidism, but if you have the latter disorder, it does not necessarily mean you have Hashimoto’s disease.

Hashimoto’s Disease Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Cold intolerance
  • Pale face
  • Heavy and irregular periods
  • mild weight gain
  • Goiter

Hashimoto’s Disease Diagnosis

The first step when screening for any type of thyroid disorder is TSH level testing through blood work. An increased level of TSH, low levels of T3 and t4, and the presence of abnormal antibodies indicate the presence of this autoimmune disease.

Hashimoto’s Disease Treatment

Currently, there is no known cure for this disorder.

Doctors often prescribe hormone replacement medications to patients to fix hormone levels. As a result, symptoms could be relieved.

In advanced cases, patients and doctors resort to surgery to remove a part or all of the thyroid.

4. Grave’s Disease

doctor performing ultrasound | The Most Common Thyroid Disorders | thyroid
A doctor performing a thyroid diagnosis

Grave’s disease is the counterpart of Hashimoto’s disease. Anomalous antibodies attack the thyroid cells leading to an increase in the production of thyroid hormones.

This condition is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the USA affecting 1 in 100 people.

Grave’s Disease Symptoms

  • anxiety
  • increased or irregular heartbeat
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • hand tremors
  • abnormal menstrual cycle
  • excessive sweating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • frequent bowel movements
  • goiter
  • bulging eyes and vision problems

Grave’s Disease Diagnosis

Doctors perform physical exams on patients to check for an enlarged thyroid, bulging eyes, and markers of increased metabolism such as high blood pressure and rapid heart rate.

A blood test to check for low levels of TSH and high levels of T4 will also be necessary. Uptake of radioactive iodine is also administered to measure the rate at which the thyroid takes up iodine.

Grave’s Disease Treatment

Scientists are yet to discover treatments that stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. But, there are a few ways to control the symptoms of the disease:

  • Taking beta-blockers as prescribed to control rapid heart rate, sweating, and anxiety.
  • Taking antithyroid medications to prevent the thyroid from producing excessive hormones.
  • Undergoing radioactive iodine therapy to destroy a part or all of the thyroid.
  • Undergoing surgery to remove the entire gland. An option for patients who cannot tolerate medication or radioactive iodine.

Beta-Blockers Definition: These are medications that reduce blood pressure. They work by blocking the effects of adrenaline.

RELATED: 5 Ways Graves Disease Affect Your Eyesight

5. Goiter

A goiter is a non-cancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland with iodine deficiency being one of the most common cause. Researchers estimate that 200 million out of the 800 million people worldwide with iodine-deficient diets suffer from this disorder.

Interestingly, in the USA where people are getting plenty of iodine from iodized salt, goiter is often caused by and a symptom of hyperthyroidism.

While women aged 40 years and above are more at risk of developing a goiter, anyone can develop one, especially in areas where there’s a shortage of iodine-rich foods.

Other risk factors include radiation exposure, family medical history, medication use, and pregnancy.

Goiter Causes

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Grave’s disease
  • Hashimoto disease
  • Presence of nodules in the thyroid
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Pregnancy
  • Inflammation

Goiter Symptoms

If the goiter isn’t severe, there might not be visible symptoms. But, if it grows enough, depending on the size, the following symptoms might manifest:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Tightness or swelling in the neck
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Hoarseness of voice

Goiter Diagnosis

To diagnose a goiter, a doctor might perform the following:

  • A physical exam where your neck and swallowing are checked
  • A blood test to check TSH, thyroid hormones, and antibodies levels in your blood
  • An ultrasound to check for nodules and swelling

Goiter Treatment

Treatment for goiter usually happens when it becomes severe enough to cause symptoms.

  • If the culprit for the goiter is iodine deficiency, intake of small doses of iodine is recommended.
  • Radioactive iodine can decrease the size of the thyroid gland.
  • A part or the entirety of the thyroid can be surgically removed.
  • Since a goiter is often a hyperthyroidism symptom, treatments for these two conditions overlap.

6. Thyroid Nodules

Doctor pointing at thyroid nodules | The Most Common Thyroid Disorders | thyroid gland
Thyroid nodules

Thyroid nodules are solid or fluid-filled lumps that grow on or within the thyroid gland. Most are benign as thyroid cancer accounts for a very small percentage of thyroid nodules.

Thyroid Nodules Causes

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thyroid adenomas
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Thyroid cysts

Thyroid Nodules Symptoms

Most nodules do not cause symptoms. When they grow enough, these nodules can:

  • Be felt.
  • Be seen as a swelling at the base of the neck
  • Cause shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing because of them pressing on your windpipe.

In some cases, nodules can produce additional thyroid hormones. As a result, symptoms similar to that of hyperthyroidism might occur:

  • high pulse rate
  • nervousness
  • increased appetite
  • tremors
  • weight loss
  • clammy skin

On the other hand, nodules can also mimic symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease:

  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • hair loss
  • dry skin
  • cold intolerance

Thyroid Nodules Diagnosis

Nodules can be detected by:

  • Undergoing a physical exam
  • An ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI

Upon detection, a TSH test and thyroid scan are needed to check for hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Finally, to determine if the nodule is cancerous or not, a fine needle aspiration biopsy is performed.

Thyroid Nodules Treatment

For benign nodules, treatment is usually not needed for these nodules are not life-threatening. If a nodule grows, another biopsy and a radioactive iodine therapy recommendation may be at hand.

For cancerous nodules, treatments vary depending on the size and nature of the tumor. Treatment options include surgery and radiation therapy.

 

Learn more about common thyroid disorders in this video from Natural Cures:

Thyroid disorders may not be fully preventable, but their complications are. If you worry about having any of the symptoms listed above, visit your doctor right away to get the proper diagnosis. Catch it early, manage it early.

It is also important for adults to consume a healthy mix of daily vitamins. We recommend this Vitamin D3 supplement.

Do you have any questions about these disorders? Let us know in the comments section below!

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