26/01/2022 / Endocrinology & Diabetes

The Most Common Thyroid Gland Diseases and Problems

Awareness of thyroid gland diseases and thyroid gland problems will help you in early diagnosis, treatment therapy, prevention of thyroid, making perfect health choices.

The Most Common Thyroid Gland Diseases and Problems
Manasa Krishna PerumallaManasa Krishna Perumalla

Manasa Krishna Perumalla

B.Pharm, Research Associate

What is a thyroid gland?

Thyroid gland position

The thyroid gland is a butterfly organ in neck, situated above your collar bone (Adam’s apple). The thyroid gland is an essential element of your endocrine system. The thyroid function is influenced by various hormones and chemicals that are released in our body, including - Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), Calcitonin, Iodine. Let’s have a brief about each component:

  • Calcitonin is another hormone secreted by the thyroid gland in response to high plasma levels of calcium.

  • Iodine is a component present in our daily used salt and many other food products that is necessary for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and the prevention of thyroid gland disorders. 

  • The levels of thyroid hormones in our body must not be either too high or too low to avoid thyroid gland problems.

These thyroid hormones control many of our vital body activities such as breathing, body weight, heart rate, muscle strength, body temperature, menstrual cycle, cholesterol level, protein and carbohydrate synthesis, brain development, and maintenance of bone. Hence any changes in the thyroid gland function may lead to following thyroid gland disorders.

3 Most common thyroid gland diseases and thyroid gland problems

In this thyroid blog, let’s discuss some of the thyroid gland disorders that lead to thyroid gland problems. Some common thyroid diseases list include:

  1. Euthyroidism sick syndrome

  2. Hyperthyroidism

  3. Hypothyroidism

1. Euthyroidism sick syndrome

  • This thyroid gland disease is also known as nonthyroidal illness syndrome. It is a condition of thyroid gland diseases where your thyroid gland remains normal in size and the level of thyroid hormone varies. This kind of thyroid gland disease is not a true thyroid gland disorder or syndrome and is caused due to temporary variations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis. 

  • Stress, sepsis, starvation, pneumonia, anorexia nervosa, history of trauma, cirrhosis, renal failure are some common thyroid gland problems that lead to this thyroid gland disease. The key to the recovery of these thyroid gland disorders is to manage the primary illness, not the abnormalities of the thyroid gland. 

  • A positive outcome of these variations has been observed in the patients undergoing cardiac surgery but no difference in the mortality benefit. 

2. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a common thyroid disease condition, where your thyroid gland is overactive giving rise to excess thyroid hormone. In this thyroid gland disorder, you may experience accelerated body function leading to some common thyroid diseases of hyperthyroidism.

Usually, it takes a lot of time to get noticeable symptoms for this thyroid gland disease but when the metabolic rate becomes high, you can observe a lot of symptoms. Among various types of hyperthyroidism, the following are more common thyroid gland diseases list that occurs due to excess thyroid hormones.

Most common thyroid gland diseases and thyroid gland problems

Graves’ disease

  • This is an autoimmune disorder (immune system attacks own organs or their products) also known as Basedow’s disease that causes a thyroid gland problem, leading the thyroid gland to synthesize excessive thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease passes on to generations and is a common thyroid disease that develops at any age in both men and women.

  • The symptoms of Graves' disease match that of hyperthyroidism and include weight loss, puffy eyes, enlarged thyroid, anxiety, irritability, increased heartbeat, fatigue, excessive sweating, hand tremor. No treatment prevents the thyroid gland from the attack of the immune system.

  • However, you can manage and cure this type of thyroid gland disorders symptoms. Some anti-thyroid drugs are also prescribed to prevent the thyroid gland from producing excessive hormones.

Goiter/ Thyroid nodule

  • Have you ever observed swelling in your neck region? This may be due to a deficiency of iodine in your diet. Goiter can be due to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism or may be due to symptoms of the underlying disease condition. This thyroid gland disease is defined as non-cancerous, non-toxic, and non-inflammatory enlargement of thyroid hormone which results in the swelling of the butterfly organ in neck. 

  • The symptoms are not observed if the goiter is mild. However, if it is severe, you may observe some common thyroid gland disease signs such as swelling in the neck region, coughing, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, hypermetabolism, ocular changes, poor appetite, constipation, voice hoarseness. 

  • We can treat this type of thyroid gland disorder by increasing the amount of iodine in your diet or taking additional iodine supplements. It is better to consult a medical professional for better analyses of your condition.

Thyroid cancer

  • Thyroid Cancer can be defined as the presence of a malignant tumor in the thyroid gland. Generally, people suffering from thyroid cancer develop thyroid nodules at the early stage which does not have any specific symptom. But when the thyroid gland disease progress, the nodule can get bigger in size swelling, or formation of a lump in the neck region.

  • You may have difficulty in swallowing or even get a hoarse/husky voice. There is no chance for prevention of thyroid in this thyroid gland problem as it is mostly asymptomatic. 

  • The first and foremost treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery to remove the entire thyroid gland or parts of it. Your doctor may also advise using radioiodine therapy. This therapy is used to kill any cancerous cells that are in case left after surgery. 

Thyroid Storm

  • A thyroid storm is an acute, lethal thyroid gland disease caused by an extreme manifestation of thyrotoxicosis (caused by excessive ingestion of thyroid hormones while treatment). The occurrence is usually in association with grave’s disease or goiter, in people whose pre-existing thyrotoxicosis has been treated either partially or not at all. 

  • The clinical diagnosis of this thyroid gland disease includes severe hypermetabolism with fever, profuse sweating, tachycardia, arrhythmias, diarrhea, and marked delirium. The prevention of thyroid gland disorder here involves early recognition, educating patients about avoiding abrupt discontinuation of anti-thyroid drugs.

  • Therapy for this thyroid gland disease is the usage of anti-thyroid drugs, potassium iodide, propranolol, corticosteroids.

3. Hypothyroidism

This thyroid gland disorder is a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone (hypoactive thyroid). In hypothyroidism, the functioning of your body generally slows down, including the metabolism. 

It often takes several years to develop the symptoms of hypothyroidism. In the early stages, you may feel sluggish, tired, and weak. The metabolism slows down gradually which results in developing other common thyroid disease signs and symptoms such as feeling cold at normal temperature, muscle weakness, etc. 

For treating this type of thyroid gland disease, medicines are given to maintain the level of your thyroid hormone in the body. These medicines contain synthetically manufactured hormones resembling the ones that your thyroid produces naturally. It is generally advised for the patients to take the hormone capsules throughout life. Some common thyroid diseases list that is included in types of hypothyroidism are as under:

Congenital Iodine deficiency syndrome

It is a common thyroid gland disease seen at the time of birth and is formerly known as Cretinism, which is due to deficiency of iodine during pregnancy. This will lead to a medical condition during birth.

This thyroid gland disease can be characterized by very little crying, poor feeding, stunted growth, reduced adult stature, thickened skin, hair loss, enlarged tongue, a protruding abdomen; abnormal bone growth and delayed puberty in children;  and mental retardation, neurological impairment, delayed ovulation, and infertility in adults. 

Early neonatal screening helps you in the detection. Iodine replacement before pregnancy is the best method for the prevention of thyroid gland disorder. Life-long thyroid hormone replacement is the best therapy for this type of thyroid gland disease. 

Hashimoto's disease

Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis is also known as Hashimoto's disease. This thyroid gland disease can occur at any age but is most commonly found in middle-aged women. Like Graves' disease, it is also an auto-immune disorder in which the body's immune system destroys the thyroid gland thereby hindering the production of the hormone. 

This thyroid gland disease can remain stable for many years without showing any symptoms. When in severity, it may exhibit symptoms of hypothyroidism which include depression, lethargy, thinning of hair, cold intolerance, bloated face. 

Hormone-replication therapy is often used as a treatment for Hashimoto's disease which may also help in relieving thyroid gland problems.

Myxoedema

Also known as Gull’s disease. This thyroid gland disease is caused due to malfunction of the thyroid gland during the adult years. 

Females are seen as more prone to myxoedema than males. A hallmark of this thyroid gland disease is an inflammation (edema) that causes the facial tissues to swell and look puffy. Besides this, other signs and symptoms of thyroid gland disorder include low heart rate, weight gain, cold intolerance, low heart rate, depressed mood, constipation, shock, seizures. 

Myxedema is treated by taking a synthetic version of thyroid hormone. It is also considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.

Diagnosis and tests of thyroid gland diseases

It is difficult to diagnose thyroid gland diseases in many cases because the symptoms you experience are not very prominent and can be linked to various other disease conditions, pregnancy, or the process of aging. However, certain tests can help diagnose thyroid gland disorders. This thyroid blog includes some of these tests like thyroid function tests, physical examination, and imaging tests.

Below here are some imaging tests of thyroid gland disorders:

  • Needle Biopsy  

  • Thyroid Antibodies  

  • Thyroid Scan and Uptake  

  • Thyroid Tests 

  • Thyroxine (T4) Test  

  • Triiodothyronine (T3) Tests  

  • TSH (Thyroid-stimulating hormone) test  

  • Ultrasound - Thyroid 

  • Ultrasound-Guided Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy of the Thyroid 

Typical thyroid function test result for thyroid disorders

Physical examination

You can perform a simple neck check to help you with early detection to check for lumps or enlargement that may lead to a list of thyroid gland diseases.

infographic of the with and without lumps

Precautions for prevention of thyroid diseases list

Even though there has been no specific prevention of thyroid gland diseases, taking a step to change the choices you make might help in reducing the risk or, if you are suffering from one, help you decrease the progression speed of your situation.

The risk of developing thyroid gland disorders can be prevented by cutting down your alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, avoiding processed foods, and limiting the soy content in your diet. Selenium supplements are also found helpful in keeping your thyroid gland healthy.

As mentioned above, you can choose to change the habits and diet you follow. Here are some good choices for the prevention of thyroid diseases. In addition, please talk to your doctor before choosing these alterations.

Diet fact sheet for thyroid gland disorders

No specific foods or dietary supplements are available for treating thyroid gland disorders but can help us in the prevention of thyroid.

Maintaining a healthy diet is not an easy task, hence we prefer taking additional supplements. But this can be not safe at all times as these supplements may interfere with the normal functioning of our thyroid gland which may also lead to irregular blood thyroid levels during our test results.

Here you can have a thyroid blog diet sheet or thyroid diet plan for the prevention of thyroid gland diseases.

Diet Fact Sheet for thyroid gland disorders

Thyroid gland diseases treatment and therapy

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in thyroid gland diseases (CAM) 

CAM is defined as standard medical care that has proven scientific effect and safety with acceptable risks. These include biological-based practices (vitamins, minerals, herbs, diets, probiotics); mind-body medicine practices (yoga, massage, chiropraxy, meditation, hypnosis); other forms of CAM (naturopathy, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, vodun/spiritism, ayurvedic medicine, functional medicine). You should note that supplements do not have to be approved by the government for the prevention of thyroid and can be sold without a prescription and taking excessive good vitamins is not necessarily better for any thyroid gland diseases.

Older therapies are not always better for thyroid hormone replacement

For decades thyroid hormone has been used as medicine. Early thyroid hormone was extracted from the thyroid glands of animals like pigs, and cows and these types of preparations are not approved by the U.S FDA for the prevention of thyroid gland disorders. At present, the replacement therapy evolved and started synthetic (laboratory-made) medications approved by the FDA for the prevention of thyroid diseases surgery. However, some patients still tend to use those unapproved drugs. But it is advised to take FDA-approved medications as they ensure safety, efficacy, and quality before the medication is sold to the patients.

Thyroid hormone treatment 

Thyroid hormone is taken in two situations:

Either to replace the function of the thyroid gland that is underactive or surgically removed (as replacement therapy) or in the prevention of thyroid tissue growth in case of thyroid gland diseases like thyroid nodule, thyroid cancer (as suppression therapy). Most thyroid hormone treatment is due to hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone is essential for the normal function of the thyroid gland and the health of the cells. There is no harm associated with thyroid hormone therapy as its job is to replace our natural hormones in the process of the prevention of thyroid gland diseases. 

Thyroid surgery  

You must discuss the thyroid surgery with your surgeon, which may include removing the partial or whole thyroid gland. Many cases of thyroid gland diseases are treated without the necessity of surgery. But there are exceptions when a nodule or cancer tissue is present which may be toxic. Removal of thyroid can be categorized into the following -

  • An open thyroid biopsy where the nodule is directly removed

  • A Hemi-thyroid lobectomy- here one lobe (half) of the thyroid is removed

  • An isthmusectomy where only the bridge between lobes of the butterfly neck organ is detached, usually specified for small tumors that are located in the isthmus.

Thyroidectomy 

Thyroidectomy is the procedure used in thyroid surgery. It is used for the treatment of thyroid gland disorders, like cancer, noncancerous enlargements in the thyroid, indeterminate or suspicious thyroid nodules, and overactive thyroid. 

Thyroidectomy is generally associated with some complications although it’s a safe procedure. Few potential complications comprise:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Low parathyroid hormone levels that can cause numbness, tingling, cramping due to low blood calcium levels

  • Airway obstruction due to bleeding

  • Nerve damage causing a permanent weak or hoarse voice

There are several approaches for thyroidectomy for thyroid gland disorders, consisting of 

  • Conventional thyroidectomy

  • Transoral thyroidectomy

  • Endoscopic thyroidectomy

The effect of thyroidectomy depends on the portion of the thyroid gland removed.         

Take home points

  • Iodine consumption aids in the prevention of thyroid gland diseases

  • Early and frequent diagnosis is the first step towards prevention of thyroid gland disorders if you experience any abnormalities

  • Screening during pregnancy helps to avoid any after birth thyroid gland disorders.


FAQ on thyroid gland diseases and problems

1. Does a sudden weight change indicate thyroid gland disorders?

Ans. No, not always. Some cases include irregular synthesis of the growth-stimulating hormone.

3. What is some common thyroid diseases list?

Ans Some common thyroid gland diseases include goiter, grave’s disease, myxoedema, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism.

4. How to confirm the presence of common thyroid gland diseases?

Ans. Physical examination, diagnosis, and evaluation of the above-mentioned tests.

5. Do X-rays cause thyroid gland diseases?

Ans. Yes, hence it is advised to ask for a butterfly organ neck belt to avoid those radioactive rays.

6. Is prevention of thyroid gland disorders in infants possible?

Ans. Early diagnosis and treatment to replace thyroid hormones can help in the prevention of thyroid gland disorders.

7. Are thyroid gland problems reversible?

Ans. Many types of thyroid gland diseases are treated, it is possible.

8. What is the best treatment for thyroidism?

Ans. Depending on the severity, it may range from drug therapy to surgery.

9. Which salt is good for the thyroid?

Ans. Pink salt is good as it contains natural iodine balances sodium and potassium for optimal adrenal health of a thyroid gland disorders person.

10. Can I take thyroid hormone while I am pregnant?

Ans. When you are in hormone therapy, it is safe as the thyroid is naturally present in the body and helps to have a normal thyroid function for the health of the baby.


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