Thyroid Health – How it Affects You
In Australia, most people will admit to knowing very little when it comes to thyroid disorders and their harmful effects upon their overall health. What’s worse, however, is the fact that a significant number of people struggle find a doctor who is willing to thoroughly test them, in order to make a diagnosis, or even clearly explain their condition and the possibility of thyroid issues.
But it may not be totally your doctor’s fault!
Unfortunately, there are a multitude of diseases and illnesses that have similar symptoms to having issues with your thyroid, so naturally, it can be rather difficult for a doctor to make a quick and efficient diagnosis. The answer? Simple. It is imperative, especially if you’re feeling unwell or sluggish, to have a thyroid function test to rule out any possibility of thyroid abnormalities. Thyroid disorders can produce a vast range of symptoms and issues that can affect any area of the body.
It can be that serious.
What is the thyroid gland?
So we know that the thyroid can become compromised and cause a storm of symptoms, but what exactly is it? Well, the thyroid gland is an endocrine gland, where its primary function is to secrete hormones directly into your awaiting bloodstream. It is located in the lower part of your neck and it wraps around your windpipe with two connecting lobes.
An abnormally acting Thyroid
So when the thyroid gland produces too many hormones (inevitably becoming overactive), the condition that manifests is called hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, when the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone (yep, you guessed it, becoming underactive), the condition is called hypothyroidism.
They sound the same, but there’s a distinct difference, and each of the conditions have common causes.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease. With Graves’ disease the body produces antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland, and in ways that are uncontrollable, thus forcing it to produce too much thyroid hormone. Conversely, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is also an autoimmune condition, called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. With Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, white blood cells invade the thyroid gland and attack the tissue, and the immune system produces antibodies which interfere with the production of the thyroid hormones.
There are obviously a list of other causes and conditions (including cellular level problems and pituitary gland issues), but these are the most common. In both cases though, whether your thyroid is producing too much or too little, you will certainly know about it.
Here are some of the symptoms of the two most common thyroid issues respectively.
- Heart Palpitations or an irregular heartbeat.
- Hot flushes and increased sweating
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath.
- Enlarged thyroid gland.
- Menstrual cycle disturbances
- Weight gain
- Chronic constipation
- Feeling cold (especially hands and feet)
- brain fog
- Poor memory and concentration.
- Pain and stiffness in muscles or joints.
- Depression, mood swings and severe PMS.
- Lump in throat (hard to swallow)
- Fluid retention (swelling of face and feet)
- Hair loss.
For both conditions, it is important to note than not everyone will experience the same symptoms. You may relate to some of these, or you may relate to many. As with any diagnosis, everyone is different, and when it comes to thyroid issues, the same can be said.
So, what can be done?
A person suffering from either an overactive or underactive thyroid gland may display many of these symptoms and find that coping day to day is difficult. The pressure on bodily functions will continue to increase unless appropriate treatment is given, and thus, a thyroid function test should be performed, measuring the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood.
It is definitely worth researching and understanding your thyroid disorder before making a decision on treatment. Successfully treating and recovering from thyroid related illnesses, however, can be a lengthy ordeal. Some patients will recover relatively quickly and will only need occasional blood tests to keep check of their thyroid hormone levels. For others, their treatment may be complicated, and may even require surgery as a last resort. Unfortunately, it could take up to a year or more to stabilise thyroid function in serious cases. But don’t stress. If you are vigilant when it comes to your thyroid health and treated appropriately, you should enjoy a healthy life with a lowered risk of long-term problems.