Understand thyroid gland malfunctions and ways it affects
Many women who suffer from a dysfunctional thyroid never realize it for long, often putting down their symptoms to stress. However, there are definite signs that can indicate your thyroid gland function is abnormal.
Hyperthyroidism is the condition when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces an excess of the thyroid hormones whereas, hypothyroidism is the opposite condition when the thyroid does not function to capacity, leading to abnormally low levels of the same hormones.
Recognizing the symptoms of both these conditions is the vital first step to dealing with the problem.
Unexplained Weight Gain or Weight Loss: Hypothyroidism is characterized by loss of weight and hyperthyroidism by weight gain. Of course, weight loss can arise from several causes but if you are unable to pin it on any definite reason, it may indicate thyroid abnormality. Weight gain in women often leads physicians to prescribe a thyroid screening test.
Mood Swings:A definite connection exists between the levels of the thyroid hormones circulating in your body, the way you feel and your energy levels. Most women with hyperthyroidism tend to feel restless, anxious and irritable and have difficulty sleeping. Persons with hypothyroidism on the other hand feel exhausted, depressed and listless.
Changes in Hair and Skin:If you find yourself losing hair, it may be a symptom of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.Women with hypothyroidism also find their nails and skin growing dry and brittle.
Sensitivity to Temperature:An imbalance of the thyroid hormones can alter the way your body senses temperature. Women with hyperthyroidism often experience greater heat and may sweat excessively whereas, those with hypothyroidism complain of feeling very cold even when the temperature has not changed significantly.
Menstrual Cycle Changes:Most women who suffer from a thyroid hormone imbalance also experience a disruption of their normal menstrual cycle. Therefore, with older women, this can often be mistaken as a sign of menopause.
Enlargement of the Neck:When thyroid hormone levels go awry, the most visible sign of it is the enlargement of the neck especially in the throat region, also known as goiter. This swelling can arise because of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism or it may be an indication of a more severe condition: thyroid cancer.
Diagnosing Thyroid Disorders
Doctors use a few diagnostic tests to identify the circulating levels of the thyroid hormone. A blood sample drawn on an empty stomach is used to assess levels of the hormones called T3, T4 and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Low TSH levels indicate a hyperactive thyroid whereas high levels of TSH indicate hypothyroidism.
Your doctor may also visually examine your neck or watch as you swallow to identify if there is a bulge in the throat region just between the collarbone and the Adam’s apple. In some cases, the doctor may also order a biopsy if he suspects the presence of a tumour.
Thyroid Disorder Treatment
Hypothyroidism is treated with hormone tablets and in most cases these medicines are to be taken for the entire lifetime. Women with hyperthyroidism are generally prescribed anti-thyroid medicines that lower hormone production by the thyroid.
In some cases when the medication does not work or if the goiter is abnormally large, doctors may remove the gland by surgery or treatment with radioactive iodine, followed by replacement therapy with thyroid hormone tablets.
The thyroid is a small gland, but any change in its working can completely disturb your metabolism. Therefore, it is important to identify if you have a thyroid disorder and get treatment at once to keep more serious disorders at bay.