Thyroid problems affect millions around the world. Despite its tiny size, the is thyroid an extremely important organ because it is responsible to provide energy to each organ. It is a small butterfly-shaped organ that is situated below your Adam’s apple. From burning calories to your heart beating, the thyroid is responsible for all your organs to function well.
Without your thyroid performing normally, your body begins to slow down or speed up several system functions. Women are more prone to thyroid disorders, especially during pregnancy or after menopause.1 Here are the most common problems that can happen with the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism is an extremely common but treatable condition when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. It is caused by the autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s disease. Women over 60 have the highest risk of hypothyroidism. The symptoms gradually develop over the years and in several cases, it’s mistaken as a part of aging. It usually starts with weight gain and fatigue and moves on to hair thinning, dry skin, and an intolerance to cold. If left untreated, it could increase the risk of heart disease.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces an excess of thyroid hormones. Because of an accelerated metabolism, you could have rapid weight loss and heartbeat, anxiety, muscle weakness, swelling around your neck, and become more sensitive to heat. It is most commonly caused by Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder. If left untreated, it could develop serious heart issues, osteoporosis, and eye problems. But with proper treatment, hyperthyroidism can be controlled.
Thyroiditis is an inflammation of your thyroid. It could be a result of an infection or you could be having problems with your immune system. The most common types are Hashimoto’s disease, which is when your immune system attacks your thyroid, and postpartum thyroiditis, which occurs within a year of childbirth.2
When your thyroid isn’t working as it should, you could have an evident swelling in your neck. In some cases, it could go by itself but in other cases, goiter is a sign of an underlying thyroid issue and the cause should be treated. If it’s too large, it can cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
One study revealed about 30% of adult women in the U.S have thyroid nodules that can be diagnosed with ultrasound, making it the most common endocrine problem in the country. Thyroid nodules are abnormal growths in your thyroid gland. You could have one or several nodules and it could either be full of liquid or blood. About 10% of cases are cancerous. It is estimated that women are susceptible to thyroid nodules four times more than men.
6. Thyroid Cancer
Sometimes the tissues of the thyroid gland can get cancerous, forming thyroid cancer. The symptoms are usually a lump in the neck, trouble swallowing or breathing, constant cough or a hoarse voice.3 If caught early, it can be treated successfully.
Doctors recommend that everybody should check their necks for lumps twice a year, to be on the safe side.4
7. Peripheral Neuropathy
If hypothyroidism goes untreated for a long time, it can cause peripheral neuropathy. This means there’s damage to your peripheral nervous system. The symptoms are tingling in your arms and feet and muscle spasms. In most cases, it goes away once your underlying thyroid problem gets treated.
If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, get your thyroid checked. In 16-60% cases, an overactive thyroid can cause an irregular heartbeat.5
Since the symptoms of a thyroid disorder are vague and similar to several other medical issues, you would need to do a blood test to check if your thyroid is working well. Other forms of tests are radioactive iodine uptake test, a thyroid scan, or a thyroid ultrasound.6
If you have a lump in your neck or any of the above symptoms, regardless of age or gender, check with your doctor immediately. Thyroid disorders are mostly treatable and with medication, you can enjoy a normal life.
|↑1, ↑2||Thyroid disease. Office on Women’s Health|
|↑3||Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer. American Cancer Society.|
|↑4||Can Thyroid Cancer Be Found Early? American Cancer Society|
|↑5||Reddy, Vivek, Wael Taha, Shanker Kundumadam, and Mazhar Khan. “Atrial fibrillation and hyperthyroidism: A literature review.” Indian Heart Journal 69, no. 4 (2017): 545-550.|
|↑6||Thyroid disease. Office on Women’s Health|