What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland located in the human body at the base of the neck where the shoulders connect one with another. The main primary function of the thyroid is the production of hormones to catalyze the metabolic pathways of the body. The metabolic pathways of the body effect the regulation of all major body functions, such as body temperature, a person’s mood and mental well-being, and overall organ health. As such, a wide variety of symptoms may arise in the instance of any form of thyroid disease or disorder. Common thyroid diseases and disorders can be sorted into two main categories, known generally as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid produces an excess of hormones. In a nutshell, this disorder causes the human body to produce and use energy at a rate faster than what is considered healthy and stable. This can result in anxiety as well as similar symptoms, and may cause skin to become thinner and hair and nails to become more brittle. Hyperthyroidism may also lead to symptoms such as weight loss, muscle weakness, and bulging eyes or other eye problems. Those with hyperthyroidism may also experience a sensitivity to heat, trouble sleeping, and in the case of people who menstruate, an irregular period or even a complete halt of the menstrual cycle.
Examples of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism may manifest itself in a variety of diseases and disorders based on the level of the overproduction of hormones, as well as the type and location of overproduction in the thyroid.
One example of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease. This disorder is characterized by an overproduction of hormones on the part of the entire thyroid.
Hyperthyroidism may also take the form of a disease known as thyroid nodules. Rather than taking place in the entire gland, nodules form on various parts of the thyroid in the occurrence of an overproduction of hormones in one or more isolated areas of the gland.
Both of these conditions can also result in the appearance of goiters, or the enlarged parts of the thyroid gland or of the entire gland itself.
The opposite of hyperthyroidism is a condition and general disorder referred to as hypothyroidism. This disorder occurs when the thyroid is unable to produce hormones in sufficient amounts. Hypothyroidism is characterized by symptoms of depression, as well as constipation and weight gain. Hypothyroidism may also cause the heart rate of a person affected with the condition to slow down dramatically. Those with hypothyroidism are also at risk to experience sensitivity to cold temperatures, issues with memory and memory loss, general weakness, and hair loss. In severe cases of hypothyroidism, patients may experience seizures, and they may even slip into a coma. People with menstrual cycles who suffer from hypothyroidism may experience heavier and more frequent periods.
Examples of Hypothyroidism
As is the case with hyperthyroidism, there are various forms of diseases and disorders that may cause or exhibit hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto’s Disease, also commonly referred to as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, is a genetically derived autoimmune disease. When a person has Hashimoto’s Disease, their immune system attacks their thyroid, causing the thyroid to be less effective in producing the hormones necessary to regulate the body’s metabolic functions.
A small percentage of people who go through childbirth experience a temporary form of hypothyroidism commonly referred to as postpartum thyroiditis. This disorder generally occurs briefly after giving birth and is not a permanent condition.
Due to the fact that the thyroid performs such an expansive variety of tasks to regulate the metabolic functions of the human body, the list of symptoms of different thyroid disorders and diseases is quite extensive. As a result of this reality, diagnosing such thyroid diseases and disorders tends to be a difficult and complicated task. That being said, doing so is not impossible, and knowing what the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism makes it easier for an individual to identify such problems. Spreading awareness of the symptoms of various thyroid disorders, as well as working with doctors and specialists who study such disorders, can greatly improve the diagnosis of thyroid problems and can lead to the reception of treatment for such issues.