Your thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone and regulates many bodily functions, including how quickly you burn calories and how rapidly your heart beats. Thyroid diseases allow the gland to produce too much or too little hormone.
You may feel restless or sleepy all of the time, or you may lose or gain weight, depending on how much or how little hormone your thyroid produces. Thyroid disease is more common in women than in men, particularly after pregnancy and after menopause.
What is Thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your spine, just below your Adam's apple. Thyroid hormone is produced by this gland and passes across your body through the bloodstream. The thyroid hormone regulates many aspects of your body's metabolism, including how quickly you burn calories and how fast your heart beats.
How do Thyroid Problems affect Women?
Thyroid disorder is more common in women than in men. Thyroid disorders affect one out of every eight women at some point in their lives. Thyroid problems in women can lead to:
● Issues with your menstrual cycle. Your thyroid aids in the regulation of your menstrual cycle. Your cycles can become very light, long, or irregular if you have too much or too little thyroid hormone. Thyroid disorder may also cause amenorrhea, which is when the cycles cease for several months or longer.
Other glands, like your ovaries, can be involved in your immune system triggers thyroid disease. Early menopause can result as a result of this (before age 40).
● Did you have trouble getting pregnant? Ovulation is affected when thyroid disease affects the menstrual cycle. This will make it more difficult for you to conceive.
● Obstacles during pregnancy are concerned with thyroid issues. During pregnancy, it can affect both the mother and the baby's health.
● Thyroid disorders may also be mistaken for menopause symptoms. After menopause, thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, is more likely to occur.
Are some Women more at Risk for Thyroid Disease?
If you have any of the following symptoms, you can speak to your doctor about getting tested:
● Have you ever had a thyroid problem?
● Is your thyroid gland been harmed by surgery or radiotherapy?
Most women should not be screened for thyroid disease unless they have a disorder such as goiter or type 1 diabetes.
What is Hypothyroidism?
When your thyroid produces insufficient thyroid hormones, you have hypothyroidism. Underactive thyroid is another name for it. Many body functions, including metabolism, are slowed as a result of this.
Hashimoto's disease is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the US. The immune system targets the thyroid incorrectly in people with Hashimoto's disease. The thyroid is damaged, and it cannot produce enough hormones as a result of this attack.
Hypothyroidism can be brought about by a variety of factors, including:
1. Treatment for hypothyroidism (radioiodine)
2. Some tumors are treated with radiation
3. Removal of the thyroid gland
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism symptoms appear gradually, often for many years. You could feel exhausted and slow at first. Other signs and symptoms of a slower metabolism can occur later, including:
● Feeling cold when other people don't
● Muscle weakness
● Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food
● Joint or muscle pain
● Feeling sad or depressed
● Feeling very tired
● Pale, dry skin
● Dry, thinning hair
● Slow heart rate
● Less sweating than usual
● A puffy face
● A hoarse voice
● More than average menstrual bleeding
● High LDL or "bad" cholesterol, which increases the rate of heart disease
How is Hypothyroidism Treated?
Hypothyroidism is treated with medication that provides the body with the thyroid hormone it needs to function correctly. The most commonly prescribed medications are synthetic versions of the hormone produced by your thyroid. You will almost certainly need thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life. When you take the drugs as directed by your doctor, they are incredibly healthy.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism, also known as an overactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid produces more thyroid hormone than your body needs. Many of the body's functions, such as metabolism and heart rate, are accelerated as a result.
Graves' disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Graves' disease is an immune system disorder.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?
You do not note the signs or symptoms of hyperthyroidism at first. Symptoms usually appear gradually. A faster metabolism, on the other hand, can cause symptoms such as:
● Weight loss, even if you eat the same or more food (most but not all people lose weight)
● Eating more than usual
● Rapid or irregular heartbeat or pounding of your heart
● Feeling nervous or anxious
● Feeling irritable
● Trouble sleeping
● Trembling in your hands and fingers
● Increased sweating
● Feeling hot when other people do not
● Muscle weakness
● Diarrhea or more bowel movements than normal
● Fewer and lighter menstrual periods than normal
● Changes in your eyes can include bulging of the eyes, redness, or irritation
Hyperthyroidism increases the risk of osteoporosis, a disease that causes frail, easily broken bones. In reality, hyperthyroidism will affect your bones before you notice any other signs or symptoms. This is particularly true for women who have experienced menopause or are already at high risk of osteoporosis.
How is Hyperthyroidism Treated?
Your doctor's treatment options will be determined by your symptoms as well as the cause of your hyperthyroidism.
● Medicine is one of the treatments. Antithyroid drugs prevent the thyroid from producing thyroid hormones. These medications do not damage the thyroid in the long run.
● Beta-blockers block the effect of the thyroid hormone on the body. These medications will help you regulate your heart rate and relieve other symptoms as you wait for one of the other treatments to take effect. Beta-blockers do not affect the number of new thyroid hormones produced.
● Radioiodine is a type of radioactive isotope. This procedure kills the thyroid cells that produce thyroid hormones. This also results in permanent hypothyroidism.
● The last option is surgery.
What is Thyroiditis?
Thyroiditis is a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes inflamed. It occurs when the immune system of the body produces antibodies that target the thyroid gland.
Thyroiditis can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
● Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of autoimmune diseases.
● Infection caused by a virus or bacteria
● Medicines of some forms
Hashimoto's disease and postpartum thyroiditis are two common forms of thyroiditis.
What is Postpartum Thyroiditis?
Ten percent of women suffer from postpartum thyroiditis or thyroid inflammation following childbirth. Since the signs are similar to the "baby blues" that may occur after birth, it is often misdiagnosed. Women who have postpartum thyroiditis may feel exhausted and irritable.
While not everyone with the condition goes through both phases, postpartum thyroiditis usually occurs in two stages:
1. The first phase begins 1 to 4 months after delivery and lasts 1 to 2 months on average. Since the weakened thyroid leaks thyroid hormones into the bloodstream, you may experience signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism during this stage.
2. The second phase lasts 6 to 12 months and begins around 4 to 8 months after delivery. Since the thyroid has lost most of its cells, its hormone level is compromised.
Who is at Risk for Postpartum Thyroiditis?
Postpartum thyroiditis can be caused by the immune system. Your risk is greater if you have an autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes.
You're still at a higher risk if:
● Do you have a personal or family history of thyroid problems?
● After a previous pregnancy, I developed postpartum thyroiditis.
● Have you been diagnosed with chronic viral hepatitis?
How is Postpartum Thyroiditis Treated?
Treatment for postpartum thyroiditis is determined by the stage of the condition and the severity of the symptoms. If you develop symptoms of hyperthyroidism in the early stages, the treatment can include heart-slowing medications.
The thyroid in most women with postpartum thyroiditis returns to normal within 12 to 18 months of the onset of symptoms. If you've had postpartum thyroiditis before, the chances of developing chronic hypothyroidism in the next 5 to 10 years are higher.
What is Goiter?
A goiter is an abnormally swollen thyroid gland. It could happen for a brief period of time and then go away without treatment. It may also be a sign of another thyroid condition that requires urgent medication. Women are more likely than men to develop goiter, particularly before menopause.
The following are some of the most common causes of goiter:
● Hashimoto's disease
● Graves' disease
● Thyroid nodules
● Thyroid cancer
A swelling in your neck is the usual sign of a goiter. You will be able to see or feel the lump with your hand if it is big enough. A big goiter can also cause a lump in your throat, coughing, and difficulty swallowing or breathing.
Your doctor will run tests to see if it's related to another thyroid condition.
How is Goiter Treated?
If your thyroid is functioning properly and the symptoms are not bothering you, you do not need medication.
If you’re prescribed therapy, medication should shrink your thyroid to a close to average size. You may need surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid.
How are Thyroid Diseases Diagnosed?
It can be challenging to determine whether or not you have a thyroid disorder. The signs and symptoms are similar to those of a variety of other illnesses. Your doctor may begin by inquiring about your medical history and whether any members of your family have had thyroid disease. Your doctor may also perform a physical examination to look for thyroid nodules in your neck.
Your doctor can order additional tests based on your symptoms, such as:
● Blood tests. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels in the blood will help your doctor determine if your thyroid is overactive or underactive. TSH instructs the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones.
● Your doctor can order another blood test to check the levels of one or both thyroid hormones in your blood based on the results.
● Check for radioactive iodine absorption. This test requires you to swallow a liquid or capsule containing a small amount of radioactive iodine (radioiodine). Since your thyroid produces thyroid hormone with iodine, the radioiodine collects in your thyroid.
○ The presence of high levels of radioiodine indicates that your thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone levels below normal indicate that your thyroid is not producing enough of it.
○ A thyroid scan is performed. The same radioiodine dose given by mouth for your uptake test is used for a thyroid scan. You lie down on a table while a computer screen displays a picture of your thyroid created by a special camera.
○ This test reveals the thyroid's iodine absorption pattern.
○ This test reveals three different types of nodules:
■ Hot Nodules - These thyroid nodules appear brighter on the scan than usual thyroid nodules. They absorb more radioiodine than the thyroid around them. In addition, they produce more hormone than normal thyroids. Just about 1% of these nodules are cancerous.
■ Warm Nodules - These nodules absorb the same amount of radioiodine as a normal thyroid and produce the same amount of hormones as a normal thyroid.
■ Cold Nodules - On the scan, these nodules appear as dark areas. They don't absorb a lot of radioiodine and don't produce thyroid hormones. Many of the nodules are icy. Cancerous nodules account for up to 15% of these nodules.
● Ultrasound of the thyroid gland. Sound waves are used to create an image of the thyroid on a computer screen during a thyroid ultrasound.
○ This test will assist your doctor in determining the type of nodule you have and its size.
○ To see if your nodule is rising or diminishing, you will need more thyroid ultrasounds over time.
○ Ultrasound can also aid in detecting thyroid cancer, but it cannot be used to diagnose thyroid cancer on its own.
Thyroid diseases are very common in the female populations and have bimodal age distribution. You must consult your general physician if you suspect any signs and symptoms to rule out a thyroid disorder or get it diagnosed as early as possible. Early diagnosis results in a better prognosis, especially if, in a worst-case scenario, it’s thyroid cancer.