The thyroid gland may only be 2 inches in size, but it has a huge impact on our health. The gland produces hormones which are carried directly into the bloodstream and play a major role in regulating the metabolism of the body. So, even the slightest fluctuation in the activity of the thyroid gland may lead to severe health problems and negatively impact the functioning of the body.
These conditions often tend to go unnoticed as the symptoms are not very specific until later stages. Therefore, it becomes imperative to keep a check on the functioning of the thyroid gland as well as other parameters associated with it, by undergoing regular preventive whole body checkups.
Mentioned below is some useful information regarding the conditions that may arise with the improper functioning of the thyroid gland. If you are among one of those people who can associate with the below-mentioned conditions and associated symptoms it may be the time for you to take up a preventive health check-up and make sure that your thyroid gland is functioning properly.
Overactive thyroid gland
Hyperthyroidism is a health disorder in which an overactive thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones in an excess amount. When the thyroid gland is overactive the body’s metabolic processes speed up and you may experience an increase in heart rate, anxiety, nervousness, hand tremor, weight loss, excessive sweating, sleep problems etc.
The most common cause of an overactive thyroid gland is an autoimmune disorder named Graves’ disease. In this condition, the body produces an antibody names thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) which causes the gland to produce too much thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease is a genetic disorder and tends to affect women more than men.
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Hyperthyroidism may also be caused by toxic nodular or multinodular goitre. In this condition, the lumps or nodules present in the thyroid gland cause it to produce excess amounts of hormones. Furthermore, the thyroid gland may become overactive due to over-consumption of iodine.
Hyperthyroidism may also develop during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth to the baby.
Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism –
The condition is diagnosed based on physical exam, symptoms and blood tests that are conducted to measure levels of thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) namely T3 and T4. The doctor may also ask the patient to undergo an ultrasound or a nuclear medicine scan to see if the gland has nodules or whether it is inflamed or overactive.
What happens when hyperthyroidism is left untreated?
Untreated hyperthyroidism may lead to severe complications, majorly related to the heart. Patients suffering from this condition may suffer from possible complications such as –
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- Arrhythmia (refers to abnormal heartbeat)
- Cardiac dilation (refers to an increase in the size of heart cavities)
- Reduced bone density
Underactive thyroid gland
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland produces less than the required amount of thyroid hormones. The patients suffering from this condition tend to have a very slow metabolism rate. This condition is very common but often tends to go unnoticed.
The two major causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Inflammation of the thyroid gland in which a large percentage of thyroid gland cells are damaged, making them incapable of producing the thyroid hormones.
- An ongoing medical treatment in which a certain portion of the thyroid gland may have to be removed.
Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism
To begin the diagnosis, the doctor may conduct a physical examination to check evidence of dry skin, swelling around the eyes and legs, slow heart rate and slower reflexes. For further diagnosis, the doctor may also ask the patient to undergo different blood tests such as –
TSH test – The test measures the amount of thyroxine that is being signaled to produce. Patients having an abnormally high level of TSH may have hypothyroidism.
T4 test – The test measures the amount of free as well as bound thyroxine in the blood. The levels of T4 in combination to TSH give a fair idea of the functioning of thyroid gland.
What happens when hypothyroidism is left untreated?
If this condition is not treated on time, it may lead to severe complications such as –
If a pregnant woman suffers from hypothyroidism, the child may have a higher risk of developing birth defects. Babies born to mothers with hypothyroidism may suffer from significant physical and mental development issues because thyroid hormones are important for the functioning and development of the brain.
When thyroid gland overexerts itself to produce a satisfactory amount of hormones, the excessive stimulation may lead to the enlarged thyroid gland to a point where a large bulge on the neck may appear.
Very low levels of hormones may affect ovulation and reduce a woman’s chance to conceive. The condition may become so critical, that it may not be prevented even with proper treatment.
How can you know if your thyroid isn’t working properly?
If your body shows the following signs, your thyroid may be under or overactive
- You feel exhausted all the time.
- Women may find their voice becoming hoarse.
- You feel sad most of the time, which may be due to the underactive thyroid gland that affects the production serotonin, the happy hormone.
- You feel jittery and anxious all the time.
- Your appetite has drastically increased.
- Your cholesterol levels are suddenly shooting up.
- Your skin is excessively dry.
- You have frequent muscle or joint pains.
- Your blood pressure has suddenly seen a rise.
- Your hands and feet are cold most of the times.
- The rate of your hair fall has suddenly increased.
- You have a sluggish, slower or weaker colon that makes you feel constipated all the time.
The thyroid gland plays a major role in maintaining metabolic activities in the body. Any problem in the working of this gland may lead to severe health complications. Therefore, it is suggested that everyone should get the functionality of thyroid gland checked at least once in a year. Having a well-functioning thyroid gland is important to stay healthy, active and energetic.
Various preventive health care packages, whole body checkup packages are offered by various labs and online portals which can be availed at affordable prices. These comprehensive packages not only provide check-ups pertaining to the functioning of the thyroid gland but also that of other major organs in the body.