When the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, there may be several reasons why. A diet with poor iodine is one. Or, physical/mental stress, genetic defects, infections, autoimmune diseases or side effects of medications may be the reason as well.
An enlarged thyroid, or goiter, may be an indication of disease. Most of the time, goiters are benign, but people should see their doctor as soon as possible anyway to rule out cancer. Because symptoms develop gradually, some may have this condition for years and not know it. Common thyroid ailments are Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. These autoimmune disorders attack normal body cells, ‘mistaking’ them for foreign tissue.
Both are more common in women than men – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis causing hypothyroidism (symptoms of hypothyroidism include: physical/mental sluggishness, unexplained weight gain, hair loss, constipation, exaggerated sensitivity to cold, irregular menstrual periods, depression, hoarseness or low voice, memory loss and tiredness) and Graves’ causing hyperthyroidism (racing heartbeat, increased bowel movements, irregular cycles, irritability, anxiety, mood swings, protruding eyeballs, muscular weakness, insomnia and thin brittle hair).
If tested and the thyroid is underactive, doctors prescribe regular doses of T4. Sometimes monitoring is necessary in order to get the dosage right. If tests show that the thyroid is overactive, a thyroid scan is obtained (provided the patient is not pregnant or breastfeeding). A biopsy is done to rule out malignancy.
If cancer is present, treatment options include drugs, surgery, chemo and radioactive iodine. If there is no cancer, just an overactive thyroid, medication can ease the symptoms. Lastly, another treatment option for an overactive thyroid is the destruction of thyroid cells to level off gland production, or total removal. Whatever the case, please be proactive with your doctor to make the best decision for your lifestyle.
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