Thyroid is a most common disease among women and if not treated in time it can lead to severe health problems. It is very important to be aware of this friendly as well as deadly gland in our body.

1.What is the thyroid
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland just below the Adam's apple. This gland plays a very important role in controlling the body's metabolism, that is, how the body functions. It does this by producing thyroid hormones (T4 and T3), chemicals that travel through the blood to every part of the body. Thyroid hormones tell the body how fast to work and use energy. The thyroid gland works like an air conditioner. If there are enough thyroid hormones in the blood, the gland stops making the hormones (just as an air conditioner cycles off when there is enough cool air in a house). When the body needs more thyroid hormones, the gland starts producing again. The pituitary gland works like a thermostat, telling the thyroid when to start and stop. The pituitary sends thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid to tell the gland what to do. The thyroid gland might produce too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), making the body use energy faster than it should, or too little hormone (hypothyroidism), making the body use energy slower than it should. The gland may also become inflamed (thyroiditis) or enlarged (goiter), or develop one or more lumps (nodules).

2. What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism makes the body speed up. It occurs when there is too much thyroid hormone in the blood ("hyper" means "too much"). Hyperthyroidism is nearly 10 times more frequent in women than in men. The most common form of hyperthyroidism, Graves' disease, is caused by problems with the immune system and tends to run in families.

Following are the symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

  • Fast heart rate
  • Nervousness
  • Increased perspiration
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trembling hands
  • Weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Skin changes
  • Increased frequency of bowel movements
  • Decreased menstrual flow and less frequent menstrual flow
  • Goiter
  • Eyes that seem to be popping out of their sockets.

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism rarely occur all at once. However, if you have more than one of these symptoms, and they continue for some time, you should see your doctor.

3. What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism causes the body to slow down. It occurs when there is too little thyroid hormone in the blood ("hypo" means "not enough"). Hypothyroidism affects more than 5 million people, many of whom don't know they have the disease. Women are more likely than men to have hypothyroidism. Also, one out of every 4,000 infants is born with the condition. If the problem is not corrected, the child will become mentally and physically retarded. Therefore, all newborns should be tested for the disease.

Following are the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

  • Feeling slow or tired
  • Feeling cold
  • Drowsy during the day, even after sleeping all night
  • Slow heart rate
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight gain
  • Husky voice
  • Thinning hair
  • Dry and coarse skin
  • Feeling depressed
  • Heavy menstrual flow
  • Milky discharge from the breasts
  • Infertility
  • Goiter

Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism can occur normally with aging, so if you have one or two of them, there is probably no reason to worry. However, if you are concerned about any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.

4. What is thyroiditis?
Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland and the most common cause of hypothyroidism. When patients with thyroiditis have any symptoms, they are usually the symptoms of hypothyroidism. It is also common to have an enlarged thyroid that may shrink over time. The type of thyroiditis seen most often is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a painless disease of the immune system that runs in families. Hashimoto's thyroiditis affects about 5% of the adult population, increasing particularly in women as they age. Another form of thyroiditis affects women of childbearing age. Postpartum thyroiditis occurs in 5%-9% of women soon after giving birth and is usually a temporary condition. Viral and bacterial infections can also cause thyroiditis

5. What is a goiter?
A goiter is an abnormal swelling in the neck caused by an enlarged thyroid gland. It can become quite large. The problem occurs in at least 5% of the population. Worldwide, the most common cause of a goiter is lack of iodine, a chemical that the thyroid uses to produce its hormones. About 100 million people don't get enough iodine in their diets, but adding iodine to salt can solve the problem.
Even with the right amount of iodine, the thyroid gland can swell, creating a goiter. This can occur in any type of thyroid disease, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, and thyroid cancer. Many goiters develop with normal thyroid hormone levels and do not require treatment.

6.Are all thyroid lumps (nodules) cancerous?
Thyroid lumps (also called nodules) are growths in or on the thyroid gland. They occur in 4%-7% of the population. More than 90% of these lumps are benign (not cancerous) and usually do not need to be removed. Thyroid cancer is more common in patients who have had radiation to the head or neck. A thyroid nodule might cause your voice to become hoarse, or it could make breathing or swallowing difficult. However, it usually produces no symptoms and is discovered incidentally by you or your physician.

7.How is thyroid disease discovered?
As with any disease, it is important that you watch for the early warning signs. Check if you think you might be having any of the symptoms of Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Consult your doctor if you think you are suffering from any of the symptoms. However, only your doctor can tell for sure whether or not you have thyroid disease. He or she can measure the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood, as well as look at the structure and function of your thyroid gland. If a nodule is found, your doctor can test whether or not it is cancerous.

If you have thyroid disease, your doctor can discuss which treatment is right for you. There are several types of treatment:

  • Radioactive iodine is used to shrink a thyroid gland that has become enlarged or is producing too much hormone. It may be used on patients with hyperthyroidism, a goiter, or some cases of cancer.
  • Surgery is normally used to remove a cancer and may also be used to remove a large goiter.
  • Thyroid hormone pills are a common treatment for hypothyroidism, for patients with a goiter, and for patients who have had thyroid surgery. The pills provide the body with the right amount of thyroid hormone.

NOTE: Please note that we have collected this information and it does not take the place of personal health care by your doctor. If you think you may have some form of thyroid disease, please see your doctor for an examination.

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