The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones, which regulate many of your body's functions. Diseases of the thyroid usually cause it to produce an excessive amount or not enough of the hormone. Depending on the amount of hormones, you may feel tired or restless, or you may gain or lose weight.
Thyroid diseases are often misdiagnosed, and their symptoms can be mistaken for aging or normal fatigue. However, women are more susceptible to thyroid conditions, especially after pregnancy and menopause. This is due to how often there are hormonal changes in a woman's body compared to that of a man. Women's menstrual cycle can often involve thyroid hormones, affecting a woman's body. In this guide, we will look at the thyroid gland, what causes it to malfunction, symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid, and how it can be treated.
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland on your lower neck along your windpipe. It has two lobes, each about the size of a plum cut in half, the right half and left half are connected by a bridge of thyroid tissue called the isthmus. It is packed with blood vessels and nerves that aid in voice quality.
The thyroid secretes hormones called thyroid hormones. They include thyroxine. This hormone contains four atoms of iodine and is often called T4, Triiodothyronine, and Calcitonin, also called T3, due to its three atoms of iodine. These hormones are important for temperature, metabolism, and growth. In young people, these hormones also influence brain development.
What causes thyroid problems in females?
About one in eight women will be affected by some form of a thyroid problem, which is about ten times higher than for men. While nearly 20 million Americans have thyroid conditions, less than 40 percent are aware of their condition. It can happen to women of any age but is most common after pregnancy and menopause. Thyroid diseases are often caused by autoimmune problems when the body's immune system attacks its own cells. Although it is not clearly understood why this happens, autoimmune problems are far more prevalent in females.
Another reason women are more vulnerable to thyroid problems is how the hormone's in a woman's body change during the menstrual cycle. Thyroid hormones are affected during this time, and there is a greater chance of something going wrong. That is also why thyroid problems are so common during pregnancy and after menopause when hormone levels fluctuate. It is easy to confuse the onset of thyroid issues with menopause, and women should be aware of the possibility so that they can get help immediately.
Common Thyroid Disorders
When the thyroid malfunction, for whatever reason, the thyroid hormone balance in the body is thrown off, causing the body to react in a variety of ways. Sadly, many of the symptoms of thyroid problems can be easily misdiagnosed as something else. Problems that can be caused by a malfunctioning thyroid gland include:
- Goiter: Goiter is a general term for any swollen thyroid gland. Goiters can be harmless, represent an iodine deficiency, or be a sign of thyroid inflammation.
- Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis is the technical term for inflation of the thyroid gland. The most common causes are infection or an autoimmune response. It can be irritating or have no symptoms at all.
- Grave's Disease: Grave's disease is a form of an autoimmune disorder where the thyroid is tricked into producing an excessive amount of hormones.
- Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is the technical name for the thyroid producing too much thyroid hormone. It can be caused by Grave's Disease or by overactive thyroid nodules.
- Thyroid Storm: A thyroid storm is a rare version of hyperthyroidism that can cause severe illness.
- Thyroid Nodule: A thyroid nodule is an abnormal lump on the thyroid gland. These nodules are widespread, and few of them are cancerous. Some, however, secrete thyroid hormones which may lead to hyperthyroidism.
- Thyroid Cancer: Thyroid cancer is relatively rare and normally curable with radiation, surgery, and hormone treatments.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is by far the most common thyroid disorder and is when your thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This can be caused by nutritional deficiencies or by an autoimmune reaction.
"Hypothyroidism": The Most Common Thyroid Disorder
What are the symptoms?
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones. The symptoms vary depending on the severity of the deficiency, and it is not unusual for the problem to develop slowly over several years. At first, the symptoms of hypothyroidism may barely be noticeable, perhaps feeling tired or some weight gain. Still, as the disease causes your metabolism to slow, symptoms can become more obvious. Symptoms may include:
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Changes in mood and energy
- A slowing or stopping of ovulation
- Pregnancy problems such as miscarriages, postpartum bleeding, and stillbirths
- Early-onset menopause
- Dry skin
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Poor voice quality
- Elevated cholesterol
- Puffy face
- Muscle aches and stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Heavy or irregular menstrual cycle
- Pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
- Impaired memory
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Enlarged thyroid gland
Treatment of Thyroid Diseases
There are several types of treatment that your doctor may suggest for you based on the type of thyroid problem you are having, the severity of the problem, and the cause of the problem. Typical treatments include:
- Thyroid surgery: Thyroid surgery, also called a thyroidectomy, is when part or all of your thyroid is removed. This is most common in thyroid cancer, hyperthyroidism, or goiters.
- Radioactive Iodine: Low doses of radioactive iodine can be used to destroy cancerous tissue on the thyroid gland or destroy a gland that has become overactive.
- Antithyroid medication: Antithyroid drugs can be used to slow the production of thyroid hormones in an overactive thyroid.
- Thyroid Hormone Pills: Thyroid hormone pills replace the thyroid hormone your thyroid normally makes. Thyroid hormone pills are often used after thyroid surgery where the thyroid had to be removed or to treat hypothyroidism.
- External Radiation: A beam of high-energy radiation is directed at the thyroid. This is usually used to kill cancerous cells on the thyroid gland.
Treatment of Hypothyroidism
Often hypothyroidism can be treated naturally and does not require any invasive procedure.
Natural Thyroid Treatment
Certain food supplements have been shown to improve thyroid health. Iodine and iodine-rich foods like seaweed are important for normal thyroid function. Selenium can be found in a variety of nuts, including brazil nuts, and has been shown to aid in thyroid development. Omega-3 fatty acids like the ones found in many baked fish dishes help regulate thyroid hormones.
Binto produces customized packets of supplements perfect for helping with thyroid health. Their solution isn't one size fits all. Your packet is a unique combination of vitamins and supplements designed just for you by our in-house team of experts and designed to address your specific problems and fit your specific lifestyle. In addition, Binto allows you to connect with our community, including our health professionals, to feel supported while going through any stage in your life cycle from period, and fertility, to pregnancy and postpartum. If you have a thyroid issue and are looking for nutritional supplements to help, then Binto is your perfect partner. Click here for more information.