Producing hormones that influence almost all of your metabolism and regulates everything from temperature to body weight, the role of the thyroid gland in your wellbeing is important.
The small, butterfly-shaped gland, the thyroid produces hormones that influence every cell, tissues and organs in your body – doing amazing things for mood, energy levels, heart rate and even brain development.
But when the thyroid makes either too much or very little of these crucial hormones, things might get worse. Although it is unlikely that someone would die out of a thyroid-related disease, however, if you have any concerning symptoms, it’s time to call your doctor.
What are thyroid diseases?
Thyroid disease is the general medical term used that keeps the thyroid gland from making the right amount of hormones. The gland produces two endocrine hormones – T4 and T3 who’s healthy levels are decided by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.
When the thyroid produces too much of these hormones, it causes a medical condition that uses energy very quickly. This is called hyperthyroidism. It can lead to causing persistent tiredness, racing heart and unexplained weight loss even when not trying to.
On the flip-side, when the gland produces low levels of hormones, it causes hypothyroidism that has similar effects on your body, but increased weight gain and might leave you very sensitive to cold temperature.
What causes thyroid disease?
The irregularities in your thyroid function can be a result of an autoimmune attack on the gland or maybe improper functioning of the pituitary gland. It can also be simply passed down through genetics.
Symptoms that tell us your thyroid gland is out of balance
While it is unlikely that someone will die of thyroid disease, the downside of this disease is that most patients do not experience any significant symptoms but can feel “just not right”. Sometimes they are diagnosed when treating for other diseases.
However, a wide range of signs and symptoms could tell that your thyroid function needs a medical test:
- Trouble in concentrating, forgetfulness and brain fog
- Experiencing irregular menstrual periods in women
- Having an enlarged thyroid gland called Goitre
- Experiencing nervousness and irritability
- Feeling your heart racing or palpitations
- Very sensitive to hot or cold temperature
- Facing vision problems and irritable eyes
- Having muscle weakness and tremors
- Unexplained losing or gaining weight
- Feeling of depression and anxiety
Who are at risk of developing a thyroid disease?
If you’re concerned about your risk of developing thyroid disease, there are three main factors; age, sex and your family history. The older you grow, the chances of being diagnosed with thyroid disease also increase.
For example, hypothyroidism is one of the most common thyroid diseases in Australia, with a greater burden of disease women and the elderly. In fact, women are ten times more likely to be affected by improper thyroid function than men due to lower iodine levels and the delicate female hormone cycle.
Besides age and sex, your risk for developing thyroid disease is increased if,
- You have taken anti-thyroid medications as part of treatment for hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer
- You have a family history of thyroid disease or any autoimmune disease
- You have been exposed to radiation near your neck or upper chest
- You have Type 1 Diabetes or Rheumatoid Arthritis
- You have had a thyroid surgery
“Women are ten times more likely to be affected by improper thyroid function than men due to lower iodine levels and the delicate female hormone cycle.”
What is the one most important thing we can do for better thyroid health?
Understanding your risk factors is important and this can be determined through regular screenings and medical tests for thyroid disease if appropriate
Even if you have several risk factors, this doesn’t guarantee you will be diagnosed with thyroid disease. On the flip side, not having any risks factors won’t protect you from the disease too.
So, monitoring your risk factors and discussing any changes in your health is the most important thing you can do for better thyroid health.