Thyroid Disorders – Signs and Symptoms

The incidence of thyroid disorders is on the rise in India. In the past decade, doctors have seen the number of cases go up four times. Often left undiagnosed, it is imperative that awareness about this disease be increased.

thyroid disorders - signs and symptomsWhat are thyroid disorders?

It’s safe to say that you probably know someone or have heard of someone who’s suffering from a thyroid disorder. And chances are, that person is probably female. After all, women are 4 times more prone to thyroid disorders than men.

Thyroid disorders are amongst the most baffling disorders faced by the medical community. These autoimmune diseases have no real known cause and while doctors see some link between them and diabetes, the sudden rise in incidence has got them worried.

Meet the thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is a very vital part of the human body. It is found below the neck and below the thyroid cartilage (popularly referred to as the Adam’s apple). The thyroid is one of the larger glands in the human endocrine system and is invaluable for the proper functioning of the human body. Its primary role is to secrete thyroid hormones that regulate production of other hormones and also affect the growth and metabolism of many other systems in the human body. The thyroid controls the body’s metabolism, use and generation of energy and sensitivity to other hormones.

The thyroid’s function is in turn controlled by a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland called the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Additionally, the hypothalamus in the brain releases a hormone called Thyrotropin Hormone (TRH) that also controls the thyroid.

 Thyroid Disorders

The two most common disorders associated with the thyroid are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. An under active thyroid condition is termed ‘Hypothyroidism’ and an over active thyroid is called ‘Hyperthyroidism’.

Other than these, an enlargement of the thyroid is caused by iodine deficiency is called goitre. This could happen in cases of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or even cancerous thyroid nodules. Though thyroid nodules are common, about 5% of these are cancerous.

Thyroid disorders not only leave a person feeling exhausted and weak, but if untreated, they can also cause infertility and miscarriages amongst women.

Signs and symptoms of thyroid disorder

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism in infants manifests itself by lowered growth rate, constipation, inadequate feeding, excessive tiredness and jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin).

In children and adults, fatigue and poor performance at work and school are also signs of hypothyroidism.

Early symptoms in adults include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Constipation
  • Intolerance to lower temperatures
  • Wrist pains
  • Numbness of hands.

At later stages, the symptoms become more pronounced:

  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Weight gain despite poor appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Skin dryness
  • Puffiness around eyes
  • Hoarsening of voice
  • Worsened intellectual ability
  • In females, irregular or missed menstrual cycles are a sign of hypothyroidism

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is identified by a declining performance at work or school and or behavioral concerns.

Symptoms among adults include:

  • Nervousness
  • Hand tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weight loss in spite of large appetite
  • Joint pains
  • Bulging eyes
  • Females may experience lowered or a complete stop of menstrual activity

Amongst the older population, worsening chest pains, shortness of breath and weakening of shoulder and thigh muscles are indications of hyperthyroidism.

Both conditions exhibit a range of symptoms and often symptoms like tiredness and fatigue are attributed to a person’s lifestyle without suspecting a medical root.  A medical diagnosis is recommended to ensure proper treatment of any thyroid disorder.

Read about diagnosing and treating thyroid disorders

Photograph by Liskina Nora, via sxc.hu

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