What is Thyroid Disease and How Can it be Managed?

Thyroid disease is any dysfunction of the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck (thyroid). It can range from a small, harmless goiter that doesn't need treatment to life-threatening cancer. The most common thyroid problems involve abnormal production of thyroid hormones. Excess thyroid hormone causes a condition known as hyperthyroidism, while insufficient hormone production leads to hypothyroidism.

Both conditions can be caused by other diseases that affect the functioning of the thyroid gland. Through the hormones it produces, the thyroid gland influences almost all metabolic processes in the body. While the effects of thyroid disease can be unpleasant or uncomfortable, most thyroid problems can be well managed if properly diagnosed and treated. Women are more likely than men to have thyroid disease, especially immediately after pregnancy and after menopause.

The symptoms of thyroid problems are often confused with other health issues. Thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, is more likely to develop after menopause. Screening for thyroid disease is not recommended for most women, but if you continue to experience fatigue and other symptoms of thyroid disease after surgery, talk to your healthcare provider. Goiter is an unusual enlargement of the gland that may occur only for a short period of time and may go away on its own without treatment.

It could also be a symptom of another thyroid disease that requires treatment. Goiter is more common in women than in men, and especially in women before menopause. Your doctor will perform tests to see if it is caused by another thyroid disease. It can be difficult to tell if you have thyroid disease as the symptoms are the same as many other health problems. Your doctor may start by asking you about your health history and if any member of your family has had thyroid disease.

Your doctor can also perform a physical exam and check for thyroid nodules in your neck. Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland. The immune system creates antibodies that attack thyroid cells as if they were bacteria, viruses, or some other foreign body. This is because problems with thyroid hormone can disrupt the balance of hormones that cause ovulation. Thyroid hormone controls your body's metabolism in many ways, including how quickly you burn calories and how quickly your heart beats. All patients with hypothyroidism, except those with severe myxedema (life-threatening hypothyroidism), can be treated as an outpatient, without having to be hospitalized.

Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid causes the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone than the body needs. If you don't have hypothyroidism, your doctor may decide to simply check your symptoms and thyroid hormone levels on a regular basis. In most women who have postpartum thyroiditis, the thyroid returns to normal within 12 to 18 months after the onset of symptoms. However, if you have very severe cases of hypothyroidism that hasn't been diagnosed or treated, your risk of developing low serum sodium levels increases. For example, if you have symptoms of hyperthyroidism in the first phase, your treatment may include medications to lower your heart rate.

Greta Rulnick
Greta Rulnick

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