The thyroid gland, a tiny butterfly-shaped gland (found at the base of the neck), releases hormones which assist in regulating and controlling the body's metabolism and other essential functions. When the thyroid produces either too little or too much thyroid hormone, this results in dysfunction. This may put patients at risk for diseases like cardiovascular disorders, osteoporosis, and infertility if the issue is undiagnosed and untreated. How do I know I have a thyroid problem? You may ask.
Talking to TheHealthSite, Dr. Sushrut Pownikar, Head- Quality Assurance and Deputy Director, Oncquest Laboratories Ltd., sheds light on the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders, including the latest techniques used to assess thyroid function and the current treatment methods.
Common symptoms of thyroid disease
You could have a range of symptoms if you have thyroid disease. Most thyroid disease symptoms fall into one of two categories: those associated with having too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) and those related to having too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism).
A hyperactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and nervousness as well as insomnia, weight loss, an enlarged thyroid gland or a goitre, muscle weakness and tremors, irregular menstrual cycles or a cessation of your menstrual cycle, sensitivity to heat, and vision or eye irritation.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause fatigue, weight gain, forgetfulness, frequent and heavy menstrual cycles, dry and coarse hair, a hoarse voice, and a sensitivity to cold temperatures.
Tests used to assess thyroid function
Thyroid hormones can be measured by blood tests, but not all of them are always helpful. The tests listed below are used to assess thyroid function.
You may like to read
The best technique to first assess thyroid function is through TSH (Thyroid stimulation hormone) testing, which gauges the blood's TSH level. Before levels get too high or too low, changes in TSH can act as an early signal.
T4 is the main source of thyroid hormone found in blood and is measured by T4 testing. Levels assist in identifying if a patient has hyper- or hypothyroidism. It is a prohormone without any intrinsic biological activity.
The diagnosis of hyperthyroidism can be made with T3 testing. T3 levels in hyperthyroid individuals will be higher.
Low T3 levels with high TSH levels signifies hypothyroidism.
Thyroid nodules or enlargement may also necessitate imaging examinations such as thyroid scans, CT scans, ultrasounds, or PET scans.
In severe cases, a sample of thyroid gland cells or tissue is taken for in-depth investigation via fine needle aspiration and biopsy.
Treatment of thyroid disease
Hypothyroidism: As part of the treatment for hypothyroidism, oral thyroxin (Levo-T, Synthroid) among other brands) is given every day. This medicine is taken orally. It eliminates the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism by returning hormone levels to a healthy range.
You'll usually start feeling better one or two weeks after beginning treatment. Treatment with levothyroxine will most likely last a lifetime. Because the dosage you need may change, your doctor may perform an annual TSH test. The medication should be started in consultation with your treating physician.
Hyperthyroidism: There are numerous treatments for hyperthyroidism. However, the underlying cause of hyperthyroidism and its severity differ. Treatments may include:
Anti-thyroid medications: By inhibiting the thyroid gland from producing too many hormones, these drugs gradually reduce the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Medication for treating hypothyroidism includes propylthiouracil and methimazole. Symptoms typically start to get better with the consumption of these medications within several weeks or months.
Beta-blockers: The levels of thyroid hormones are not affected by these medications. However, they can diminish hyperthyroidism symptoms, including tremors, fast heartbeat, and palpitations.
Radioiodine therapy: The thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine. The gland shrinks as a result of this treatment, and symptoms normally get better within a few months. The thyroid gland becomes underactive as a result of this medication by slowing thyroid activity to an acceptable level.
Thyroidectomy: This surgery involves removing all or a portion of the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism is not frequently treated with it. However, it might be an option for women who are expecting or for individuals who cannot access other forms of treatment.
Tips to keep thyroid gland healthy
Increase your iodine intake as it is required by the thyroid to produce a number of its hormones. Eat lots of different nuts, onions, garlic and seafood. They contain a lot of selenium, which is necessary for transforming the T4 hormone into the T3 hormone.
Also, avoid fasting and extreme diets. For a healthy thyroid, eat nutrient-rich foods and get sufficient sleep. Furthermore, make sure to consume enough antioxidants because the thyroid is susceptible to oxidative stress. This calls for consuming strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, other fruits and vegetables.