LIFESTYLE NEWS - The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck and produces hormones that control important metabolic functions in your body, such as how fast your heart beats or how many calories you burn.
Thyroid disease is a common health problem and can affect anyone, but you’re more prone to it if you have a relative who has it or you suffer from diabetes or autoimmune arthritis.
Women are more likely than men to get thyroid disease, especially after pregnancy and menopause; the American Thyroid Association estimates that about one in eight women will develop thyroid problems during her lifetime.
What causes thyroid disease?
There are many types of thyroid disease: when the thyroid is overactive and makes too much thyroid hormone, it can cause hyperthyroidism; if the thyroid is under active, too little hormone is produced, resulting in hypothyroidism.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Iodine deficiency also causes hypothyroidism.
What are symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Signs of an under active thyroid usually develop slowly and can include:
- Feeling cold when other people do not
- Muscle weakness
- Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food
- Joint or muscle pain
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Feeling very tired
- Pale, dry skin
- Dry, thinning hair
- Slow heart rate
- Less sweating than usual
- A puffy face
- A hoarse voice
- Heavier menstrual bleeding
And the signs of hyperthyroidism?
- Weight loss
- Eating more than usual
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat or pounding of your heart
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Trouble sleeping
- Trembling in your hands and fingers
- Increased sweating
- Feeling hot when other people do not
- Muscle weakness
- Diarrhea or more bowel movements than normal
- Fewer and lighter menstrual periods than normal
- Changes in your eyes including bulging of the eyes, redness, or irritation
How is hypothyroidism diagnosed and treated?
A blood test will reveal how well your thyroid is working and medication will be prescribed if you need it.
“Patients who’ve recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism should be treated by a doctor who is experienced in thyroid medicine,” says Dr Sundeep Ruder, an endocrinologist at Life Fourways Hospital.
“Patients starting medication should have their blood levels checked after six to eight weeks of treatment to ensure their thyroid hormone levels are correcting. Side effects are rare and generally the treatment is well tolerated by most people,” says Dr Ruder.
Patients on thyroid medication may also get symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as faster heart beat, weight loss and nervousness. In this case, a blood test will confirm whether the symptoms are because the medication dose needs changing or if there is a different reason such as poor diet, stress or a lack of the vitamins D and B12 or iron.
Dr Sindeep Bhana, Head of Endocrinology at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, advises patients contact their doctor and have a thyroid hormone blood test should they feel any side affects.