This time I’ll be writing about the thyroid. I hear you ask: why the thyroid?
Well, it’s a subject not many people know much about and I think it’s good to shine some light on two diseases that impact the thyroid.
My best friend suffers Hypothyroidism and unfortunately has ups & downs with this. Not many people understand what she’s going through day in, day out, and that’s why I’m writing this post now. I hope our mutual friends will read this too and understand her situation more!
For my friend it’s very difficult: one moment her thyroid is working too slow, and the next moment (after a lab screening by taking blood) it’s appearing to be working too fast again. It’s a weird phenomenon.
There are many different thyroid disorders, but doctors categorise them into two groups: those that make the thyroid overactive and those that make it underactive.
The thyroid is a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the front of the neck. This gland has a massive impact on someone’s health. It affects the function of all the organs in the body and, if it’s not working properly, it can send the body out of sync. The two diseases I will describe are both autoimmune diseases.
But what exactly is an autoimmune disease?
The body's immune system protects you from diseases and infections. But, if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Both thyroid diseases affect the body massively.
Now I’ll describe hypothyroidism:
Hypothyroidism is basically a slow working thyroid. This occurs when the thyroid is underactive.
When you have an underactive thyroid, underproduction of the thyroid hormone leads to hypothyroidism (an increased TSH level).
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism are: fatigue, sensitive to cold, unexplained weight gain or trouble losing weight, dry skin, muscle cramps, slow heart rate, swelling of the thyroid, irregular periods, brittleness of nails, depression and constipation.
Now on to hyperthyroidism:
Hyperthyroidism is basically the opposite of hypothyroidism.
This occurs when your body makes too much of the two thyroid hormones and becomes overactive.
If you have hyperthyroidism, you may experience a fast heartbeat, sweating, increased appetite, anxiety, sensitivity to heat, irregular menstrual cycles, diarrhea, hyperactivity or sudden weight loss.
For most people these two diseases are chronical. Some people are lucky to have this temporarily due to an inflammation but we also see this can developing into a chronical disease when the thyroid can’t heal itself.
But what exactly are the differences between both diseases?
Hypothyroidism causes symptoms like tiredness, and weight gain. Having an underactive thyroid can decrease or slow down your body functions.
While with hyperthyroidism, you can have much more energy. You may experience weight loss or weight gain.
But the biggest difference between the two diseases is the hormone levels.
Hypothyroidism leads to a decrease in hormones. Hyperthyroidism leads to an increase in hormone production.
How are thyroid diseases diagnosed?
Laboratory tests are used to confirm the diagnosis of thyroid diseases.
The best test to determine the thyroid function is the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level. TSH is produced in the brain and makes a trip to the thyroid gland to stimulate the thyroid to produce and release more thyroid hormone.
A high TSH level shows that the body does not have enough thyroid hormone. A TSH level lower than normal shows there is usually more than enough thyroid hormone in the body and may indicate hyperthyroidism. When hyperthyroidism develops, free thyroxine (T4) and free triiodothyronine (T3) levels rise above normal.
Can thyroid diseases be treated?
Yes! Currently, there are several medicational treatments available for thyroid diseases.
The treatment of hyperthyroidism is a bit more complex than hypothyroidism, which needs one or more of the following treatments:
● An antithyroid drug
● Radioactive fluid treatment
● A surgery to remove the thyroid (thyroidectomy)
The treatment for hypothyroidism involves the daily use of the synthetic thyroxine hormone levothyroxine. This medication restores the hormone levels, reversing the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.
For such a small thing, it’s a complex part of the body isn’t it?!
I really hope you got a good and clear insight in how the thyroid works and the two diseases. Hopefully I wrote it down for you guys as easy to understand as possible!
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, talk to your doctor.
Until next blog!