Roughly 200 million people all over the world suffer from some form of thyroid disease. For the most part, thyroid disorders are treatable. However, when left untreated the effects are far-reaching to all systems of the body.
An awareness and basic understanding of thyroid disease is critical to helping patients and their families effectively manage treatment and care. A proactive stance is crucial for identifying symptoms that may be difficult to diagnose in order for preventative measures to be taken early on in the course of thyroid disease. Careful monitoring is a lifelong necessity as well.
Located at the base of the neck, the thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that weighs in at about 20 grams. Its role is to secrete hormones that regulate all functions of the body, especially growth and metabolism.
Types of Thyroid Disease
Though a variety of thyroid diseases exist, most of them manifest themselves in one of two ways. An overactive thyroid characterizes hyperthyroidism; hypothyroidism is marked by an underactive thyroid. Thyroid cancer is another condition that may require treatment from a multitude of specialists, including an endocrinologist, nuclear medicine specialist, oncologist, or surgeon.
Symptoms of Thyroid Disease
Symptoms may vary from person to person depending on the severity and progression of the disease. Below is a breakdown of symptoms for the two basic forms of thyroid disease. Some or all of the symptoms may be experienced at various times.
• Changes in vision
• Heat intolerance with profuse sweating
• Muscular weakness
• Rapid heartbeat
• Sleeplessness and general restlessness
• Weight loss with increased appetite
• Dry skin
• Memory loss
• Muscular Weakness
• Persistent fatigue
• Sensitivity to cold
• Slower cognitive function
• Thick, puffy skin
• Weak, slow heartbeat
It is important to recognize that thyroid disease is not limited to physical symptoms. Those suffering from hyperthyroidism may feel nervous or irritable while those with hypothyroidism are often fatigued or depressed.
Families and patients alike need to understand that these emotions are normal and will often resolve with proper treatment. Since thyroid diseases can appear gradually, symptoms may also diminish over a long period of time. For some people, these emotional symptoms can be the first, and at times only, indication of a thyroid disorder.
Congenital hypothyroidism can have devastating effects on children for the rest of their lives. For this reason, newborn screening is an essential step for early intervention and treatment.