Posts tagged thyroid problem
It is known that at least 20 Americans are troubled by some kind of thyroid disorder, which makes that medical condition even more prevalent than heart disease or diabetes. However, it’s also known that as many as 60% of all thyroid cases are not detected or treated, simply because the symptoms of a thyroid problem are often misunderstood as markers of some other issue such as allergies, colds, or advancing age.
This is unfortunate, because thyroid issues which go undiagnosed can often worsen into more severe health issues, and at that time it’s much harder to bring the disorder under control than it would have been at an earlier stage. In this discussion, we’ll take a look at some of the most prominent signs that there may be a problem with your thyroid.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is an organ which is situated at the base of your neck, and has the shape of a butterfly with its wings spread. The gland releases hormones that control your body’s metabolism, which is the manner in which energy is used. These hormones regulate many of the most important processes of your body, including body temperature, muscle strength, cholesterol levels, menstrual cycles, heart rate, breathing, and the central and peripheral nervous systems.
The thyroid gland is really very small, being only about two inches in length, and it’s situated in the forward part of the throat, just below a mass of thyroid cartilage which is generally referred to as the Adam’s Apple. The two sides of the thyroid gland are referred to as lobes, and these are located on both sides of your windpipe, connected by a thin tissue strip known as the isthmus. Some people are actually born without this isthmus, leaving the two thyroid lobes separated.
How the Thyroid Gland Works
As part of the overall endocrine system, the thyroid gland is just one of those glands which manufactures hormones for release into the bloodstream, where the hormones eventually reach all the cells of the body. In order to produce the hormones that it does, the thyroid extracts iodine from many of the foods you eat, so it can produce the hormones which are known in their short form as T3 and T4. If the levels of these two hormones are either too high or too low, there are two other glands, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, which signal the brain to correct the imbalance.
Signs That you may Have a Thyroid Problem
Since the impact of the thyroid gland and the hormones which it produces can be so pervasive throughout the body, it’s important that warning signs of a thyroid problem are detected as early as possible so they can be treated. Here are some of the most prominent signs that you may have a thyroid issue:
- Muscular pain – When you feel intermittent numbness or tightening in the legs, feet, hands, or arms, it may be a sign of a thyroid problem. A deficiency of one of the thyroid hormones can disrupt signals between your brain and the rest of the body.
- Sudden weight gain – Although there are a number of factors involved in weight gain, when you put on a lot of pounds in a very short time frame, this could indicate a thyroid problem.
- Deep sadness or depression – When the thyroid is overactive or underactive, it can trigger mood swings in an individual, and restlessness or anxiety can be another of the symptoms you experience.
- Changes in appetite – If you notice that foods or beverages suddenly taste different to you, it can be a sign that you have an underactive thyroid, which can interfere with your sense of smell and/or taste.
- Hair loss and dry skin – When your skin or scalp are itchy and dry much of the time, it can indicate an overactive thyroid. When your hair begins falling out, that can be a sign of an underactive thyroid, because the growth cycle of your hair is disrupted by lack of a needed hormone.
- High blood pressure – When you have high blood pressure that seemingly can’t be brought under control, even with a healthy diet and regular exercise, the thyroid gland could be the culprit. If the thyroid gland is underactive, it can cause high levels of bad cholesterol, and that in turn, triggers various heart issues.
- Constipation – When there is a disruption to the production of hormones in the thyroid, it can cause sluggishness in the digestive system, and that in turn, can bog down the normal elimination processes of the body.
- Excessive sleeping – When the thyroid is underactive, it can cause a number of body functions and processes to slow down dramatically, making you feel tired and listless even in the daytime.
- Throat or neck discomfort – It could be a sign of a thyroid disorder if you feel a lump in your throat, or if you experience a change in the sound of your voice. This may be detectable by checking for any swelling in the area around your neck
- Hot and cold flashes – Any kind of disruption to the thyroid has the potential of interfering with the body’s ability to regulate temperature, and when this happens you might feel either excessively cold or excessively warm.
There are in excess of 20 million Americans who suffer in some way from disorders related to the thyroid gland, and those numbers make it a more common affliction than either heart disease or diabetes. Unfortunately, a majority of thyroid disorders actually go undiagnosed and are misconstrued as some other physical ailment which doesn’t require medical attention. This discussion should help you identify when you are truly having an issue with your thyroid gland, as opposed to some other bodily ailment which is causing the symptoms you’re experiencing.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is an organ which is butterfly-shaped and is situated near the base of your neck. Its function is to release hormones which manipulate metabolism, i.e. the way your body consumes energy. These hormones issued by the thyroid regulate all kinds of important bodily functions, including the following and much more:
- menstrual cycles
- body temperature
- heart rate
- cholesterol levels
- body temperature
- muscle strength
- central nervous system
- peripheral nervous systems.
The thyroid is an unobtrusive-looking gland only about 2 inches in length, and it lies forward of your throat, just below the Adam’s apple. It has two sides which are referred to as lobes (these are the objects that look like butterfly wings), and they are connected by a strip of thyroid tissue, medically referred to as the isthmus. Most people have this connecting isthmus, but it does happen that in some people the isthmus is missing, and the two lobes of the thyroid remain separate.
How the Thyroid Works
The thyroid gland is one component of the overall endocrine system, and that system is comprised chiefly of glands which produce and release hormones into the bloodstream, and the hormones are ultimately carried into the cells of the body. To carry out its function, the thyroid uses iodine from the foods which you eat, primarily so they can manufacture two important hormones known in short as T3 and T4.
It’s very important that these two hormones stay in balance and do not reach levels which are too high or low. If either of the two hormones is in short supply in your bloodstream, the pituitary gland causes the thyroid to produce more hormones, and when the levels of T3 and T4 are too high, the pituitary gland causes the thyroid to reduce production.
Signs That you may have a Thyroid Problem
Here are the most common signals which might tell you that you have some kind of thyroid issue that requires attention:
- sudden weight gain – obviously weight gain can be attributable to many other factors, but when you have a sudden increase in weight without any corresponding increase in food intake, that’s a potential thyroid issue
- constipation – when you have constipation that persists despite your best efforts to restore natural flow, it could be due to a disruption in thyroid hormone production
- high blood pressure – when no medications that you take have an impact on your high blood pressure, particularly if you are eating healthy and exercising, that could possibly be a thyroid issue. Sometimes an underactive thyroid triggers higher levels of bad cholesterol, which can impact blood pressure and other things
- persistent muscle pain – when you feel unexplained random numbness in your extremities, or tightening in those same areas, your thyroid gland may be responsible. The thyroid hormone can damage nerves which send signals over the rest of your body, which you feel as tingling or numbness
- depression – your mood can be completely altered by an overactive thyroid or an underactive thyroid. This can cause you to feel sluggish, tired, depressed, anxious, or restless
- excessive sleeping – if your thyroid gland is functioning in a very sluggish manner, that can trigger a great many body functions to adopt that same sluggishness
- hair loss and dry skin – hypothyroidism produces symptoms such as itchiness and skin dryness which simply won’t go away. The slowed metabolism you experience can also reduce sweating. When you have inadequate thyroid hormone production, it can disrupt the growth cycle of your hair, and trigger hair loss all over the body
- increased appetite – you may notice that things taste differently when you have an underactive thyroid, and if you have an overactive thyroid, it could be that you just can’t stop eating and you’re never satisfied
- throat discomfort or neck discomfort – thyroid disorders can cause changes in your voice, and possibly even lumps in your throat. This can sometimes be observed simply by looking in the mirror for swelling in the area of the Adam’s apple
- sensation of being hot or cold – because body temperature is one of the systems regulated by the thyroid gland, when there’s any kind of disorder in effect, it can interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to regulate body temperature, which makes you feel hotter or colder than normal.
As you can see from the above, many of the warning signs for thyroid gland disorders could very easily be attributed to other malfunctioning systems in the body. In order to diagnose such disorders correctly as being attributable to thyroid problems, it will require evaluation by a skilled doctor who is familiar with the effects of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.