Common Thyroid Disorders and Their Treatments
By Joyce Paul
The thyroid and the hormones it produces play an important role in regulating the body’s metabolic rate and the formation of bones. Disorders of the thyroid can have drastic effects on a person’s health and physical appearance.
In general, thyroid disorders may be grouped into 3 types. These are:
The first type of thyroid disorder is hyperthyroidism or the overactivity of the thyroid. This condition affects about 1% of the total US population. The disease is characterized by the overproduction of thyroid hormones T3 and T4, causing the processes affected by these hormones to speed up. Among its symptoms are fatigue, the presence of goiter, heat intolerance, irregular and rapid heartbeat, mood swings, and weight loss. Depending on a number of factors, such as the patient’s age, thyroid hormone levels, and the cause of hyperthyroidism, a patient may be recommended by the doctor to undergo any of the following treatments:
- Medication – To combat the effects of excess thyroid hormones in the body, the patient may be recommended to take anti-thyroid medicine. It usually takes about 12 weeks for the medication to make a noticeable difference. The treatment typically lasts for a year.
- Radioactive Iodine Treatment – Radioactive iodine is used to permanently destroy the overactive thyroid. The treatment renders the body unable to produce its own thyroid hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism.
- Thyroid Surgery – Thyroidectomy or thyroid surgery refers to the partial or full removal of the thyroid gland. Just like radioactive iodine treatment, thyroidectomy leads to hypothyroidism.
The second type of thyroid disorder is hypothyroidism or the inactivity of the thyroid and the lack of T3 and T4 hormones in the body. Compared to hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism is easier to manage and has an opposite effect on the body. Slowed down metabolic functions may manifest in symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, and weight gain; the patient may also have poor appetite, hearing, and concentration. Long-term thyroid hormone replacement therapy is needed to treat the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some thyroid hormone replacement programs also include exercise and nutrition regimens to help curb the physical changes caused by the disease.
Growths and Cysts
The third and final group of common thyroid disorders is made up of growths such as goiters, nodules, cysts, and cancers. A vast majority of the diseases under this category do not cause signs or symptoms until the growth is big enough to impede breathing and swallowing. Still, people at risk for these conditions must remain vigilant so the condition can be detected and treated at the earliest time possible. Common treatments for diseases under this group include:
- Radiation Therapy – Typically used to treat thyroid cancers, radiation therapy may come in the form of external beam radiation, radioactive iodine treatment, and internal radiation where a radioactive seed is planted inside the tumor.
- Surgery – Thyroidectomy can be used to treat obstructive thyroid growths, cancers still contained within the thyroid, and hyperthyroidism. It is also a viable treatment for pregnant women who have thyroid growths.
- Hormone replacement therapy – Treatment for thyroid growths and nodules typically render the body unable to independently produce thyroid hormones. Hormone replacement therapy is used to address hypothyroidism. It may also prevent cancer cells from returning, and slow the growth of cancer cells still in the body.
Joyce Paul is a marketing professional from Genemedics Health Institute. Her interests lie in health and nutrition. She writes about these topics and contributes to different health and wellness blogs in her free time. She also participates in awareness campaigns for HIV and Cancer in her community. Her advocacy is to help people know more about fighting these diseases. Loves to cook, bake and take long walks with her 4 dogs (two Belgian Malinois, a Golden Retriever and a Shih Tzu).