About 42 million people in India suffer from a thyroid disorder, as per a report published in 2018. This shows that thyroid disease is highly prevalent in India. The thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck, is extremely crucial for our survival. It produces hormones, called thyroid hormones that control the body’s metabolism. Metabolism can be described as how the body uses food to release energy. There are basically two thyroid hormones -- T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine), which determine how much energy should the body use. Thyroid disorders happen when there is an imbalance in the release of these two hormones. It affects the overall metabolism of the body. Other than thyroid disorders, there are other diseases associated with this vital gland.
Here, the role of the pituitary gland is also worth noting. This gland, which is located at the base of the brain, determines and regulates how much thyroid hormone should be there in the bloodstream. If there is less thyroid hormone, it increases its supply and vice versa. It does this with its own hormone, called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Thyroid disease is an umbrella term used to describe a range of conditions that develop when your body doesn’t produce the right amount of thyroid hormones. Here are such diseases:
- This happens when your body produces too much thyroid hormones.
- As a result, your metabolism rate gets high and the body uses up the energy quickly.
- It can make you tired, your heart rate can go up, and you lose weight despite a good appetite.
- This happens when your body produces too little thyroid hormones.
- As a result, the metabolism slows down.
- This condition can make you tired, slows your heart rate, and you gain weight despite a poor appetite.
- The inflammation of the thyroid gland is called thyroiditis.
- It happens when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid glands.
- It is of two types: Hashimoto’s disease and postpartum thyroiditis.
- It is the swelling in one section of the thyroid gland.
- You can have one nodule or many.
- The nodule is either solid or filled with fluids, such as blood.
- This disease affects women four times more than men.
- It’s a disease in which your thyroid glands get too enlarged.
- It might be for a short time and go away on its own, or it might result from another thyroid disease, for which you might need treatment.
- Thyroid diseases that can cause goiter are thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, thyroid nodules, Hashimoto’s disease, and Graves’ disease.
- The symptom for goiter is quite visible in the form of a large lump in the throat, which can be seen or felt when touched.
- Sometimes, the gland gets too large that it causes a tight feeling in the throat, coughing, trouble swallowing or breathing.
- This happens when cancer cells form from the tissues of the thyroid gland.
- Many people with thyroid cancer have thyroid nodules.
- A symptom is that you might have a lump in your throat. Your voice also might get hoarse.
- The doctor carries out certain tests to diagnose thyroid cancer.
Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Diseases
The symptoms depend on the type of thyroid disease.
Symptoms For Hyperthyroidism
- Weight loss despite normal appetite
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased sweating
- Feeling heat when others do not
- Weakness in the muscles
- Increased bowel movement and even diarrhea
- Sleep problems
- Menstrual issues
Symptoms For Hypothyroidism
- Weight gain despite a poor appetite
- Slowed heart rate
- Decreased sweating
- Feeling cold when others do not
- Weakness in the muscles
- Pale and dry skin
- Thinning of hair
- Hoarse voice
- Feeling depressed
- Menstrual issues
Symptoms For Thyroid Nodules
- Most of the time, thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms.
- However, at times, they are large enough to be visible.
Symptoms For Thyroid Cancer
- Generally, the lump is large enough to be visible.
Symptoms For Goiter
- Swelling in the neck that can be seen or felt with the hands.
Risk Factors For Thyroid Diseases
Diseases linked to the thyroid gland can affect anyone across ages and genders. However, there are some people who are at a greater risk of getting the disease than others.
- Women are five times more likely than men to suffer from thyroid disease.
- Genetics plays a role and you are prone to getting the disease if someone in your family already suffers from it.
- Elderly women (of ages 60 and above).
- Some medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, etc can cause thyroid diseases.
- If you take medication that is high in iodine.
- Treatment for a period thyroid disease, such as cancer can also cause other thyroid diseases.
Can Thyroid Diseases Cause Any Complications?
Yes, they can and the complication depends on the disease.
- Cardiovascular problems
- Eye problems
- Red and swollen skin
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Cholesterol problem
- Preterm birth
- Birth defects
Thyroid Nodules: Complications
- Trouble swallowing, and or breathing
- A large goiter can cause trouble swallowing and breathing.
- It can also lead to cough and coarse voice
Treatment For Thyroid Diseases
This too depends on the type of thyroid disease.
- Treatment generally depends on the symptoms and reason behind hyperthyroidism. Here are the possible treatments:
- Medication to either block the thyroid gland from making new hormones or to block the hormone’s effect on the body.
- Another treatment option is radioiodine in which the thyroid hormone-making cells are killed. This can lead to hypothyroidism.
- Surgery is another option in which some part of the thyroid gland is removed.
- Medicine to make up for the reduced amount of thyroid hormones in the body.
- Medication is a treatment option for thyroiditis.
- In the case of the non-cancerous nodule(s), you might not need any treatment at all.
- For thyroid nodules that might turn cancerous, your doctor might carry out the surgery.
- Radioiodine is another treatment option.
- Surgery is the primary treatment in which either the whole or a part of the thyroid gland is removed.
- You might be given radioiodine treatment after the surgery.
Either you might need any treatment at all, or your doctor might prescribe you some medicines.
Foods To Boost Thyroid Function
As you saw that thyroid is crucial for the optimal functioning of the body. Although anyone can get thyroid diseases, there are some foods that can boost the functioning of your thyroid gland.
- Eggs are rich in selenium and iodine, thus are beneficial for the thyroid glands.
- Dairy such as milk, curd, etc is rich in iodine, which the thyroid gland needs to not becoming too enlarged. Hence, include a good amount of dairy in your diet.
- Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, which help prevent inflammation thus preventing thyroiditis.
- Nuts such as Brazil nuts and hazelnuts are also rich in selenium, thus helping with the optimal functioning of thyroid glands.
Yoga Poses To Improve Thyroid Health
Yoga has several benefits, from weight management, improving flexibility, increasing strength to helping with stress and anxiety. As per some studies, it also helps in improving thyroid health. Here are some poses that might help:
- Cat and cow pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
- Fish pose (Matsyasana)
- Plow pose (Halasana)
- Boat pose (Navasana)
- Camel pose (Ustrasana)
- Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
- Wheel pose (Chakrasana)
- Corpse pose (Shavasana)
Although these Yoga poses are believed to improve the functioning of the thyroid glands, these are not cures. This is a complementary therapy and you should not replace your medication or other medical treatment with Yoga. You can do this along with the treatment your doctor has recommended for better health.