Thyroid problems and diseases are not often spoken about as it isn’t as common as other health concerns, however, there still needs to be an awareness as around five per cent of the population in the UAE suffer from thyroid disease according to a statistic from the 10th Annual Middle East Otolaryngology Conference & Exhibition show.

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An awareness and understanding of thyroid problems and diseases is important as it can lead to serious physical and mental health complications. 

The thyroid is a small gland located at the base of your neck, under the Adam’s apple. Its shape often resembles that of a butterfly and is part of an intricate network of glands called the endocrine system.

The endocrine is responsible for coordinating almost all of the body’s activities. Thyroid problems occur when it produces too many hormones or too little hormones.

1. Hyperthyroidism

Thyroid

This occurs when the thyroid produces too many hormones as the thyroid gland is too overactive. Hyperthyroidism occurs in one per cent of women and less in men. Symptoms that you may notice from hyperthyroidism include:

  • Racing heart
  • Shaking
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Thin skin
  • Fragile hair and nails
  • Weakened muscles
  • Unexplained weight loss

In order to treat hyperthyroidism, you need to be diagnosed by your doctor. They will be likely to give you a blood test to measure thyroid hormone levels in your blood. When your doctor is able to determine that you have hyperthyroidism, they can then choose the most appropriate treatment for you.

Your doctor will conduct a blood test to measure thyroid hormone levels in your blood in order to diagnose it. The main treatment your doctor will advise for you is to take thyroid hormone pills. Managing its dosage is crucial as overdosing can lead to hyperthyroidism. 

Hypothyroidism Diagnosis and Treatment

Thyroid

Your doctor will perform blood tests to measure your TSH and thyroid hormone levels. A high TSH level and low thyroxine level could mean that your thyroid is underactive. These levels could also indicate that your pituitary gland is releasing more TSH to try to stimulate the thyroid gland to make its hormone.

The main treatment for hypothyroidism is to take thyroid hormone pills. It’s important to get the dose right because taking too much thyroid hormone can cause symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

2. Thyroid Diseases

Thyroid

Hashimoto’s Disease

Also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and can occur at any age. This disease occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the thyroid gland, along with its ability to produce hormones.

Mild cases of this disease will usually have no symptoms. It is also difficult to identify this disease as its symptoms can also be mistaken for other health concerns. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Breaking or thinning of hair
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Heavy or irregular menstruation

There is no known cure for Hashimoto’s disease as of yet, but hormone replacing medication is often used to raise thyroid hormone levels.

Graves’ Disease

Graves disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system will mistakenly attack the thyroid gland and leads to the overproduction of hormones that are responsible for regulating metabolism.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, graves disease is often inherited genetically and is more common in women between the ages of 20 and 30. Symptoms of the grave disease include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Trembling
  • Altered menstruation
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Bulging eyes and vision impairment

Blood tests will be conducted to measure the number of thyroid hormones in the blood before treatment is given. Your doctor may give you medications to prevent the production of thyroid hormones, radiotherapy to destroy the thyroid or surgically remove it. 

Goitre

This occurs when the thyroid gland enlarges. Goitre is noncancerous. Goitre is most commonly caused by iodine deficiency in the diet and is a symptom of hyperthyroidism.

Goitre can affect anyone at any age, especially in people with an iodine deficiency. Other risk factors of goitre include a family history of the disease, certain medication usage, and exposure to radiation.

Symptoms of goitre are relatively noticeable unless the condition has developed into alarming stages. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling or tightness in the neck
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing

As goitre is difficult to determine unless, in severe stages, it is only treated once it has developed. Doctors will take a blood test to determine the number of thyroid hormones and assess treatment procedures from there.

Thyroid Nodules

Growths that form on or in the thyroid are referred to as thyroid nodules. The causes for thyroid nodules are still relatively unknown, however, an iodine deficiency and Hashimoto’s disease is often linked to its development.

Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms but will become more apparent as they grow larger in size. They can create swelling in the neck, causing difficulty breathing or swallowing. Other symptoms include:

  • High pulse rate
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Tremors
  • Increased appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Nodules are usually discovered during a typical physical exam. CT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasound are usually able to identify them. Fortunately, they are not life-threatening unless they are actively growing. In the case that symptoms become severe, your doctor may surgically remove them. 

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