Be aware of thyroid disease symptoms – Ogden Clinic provided source, Standard-Examiner 9/18/2015
OGDEN - If you’re feeling tired, depressed and have dry skin or hair, don’t dismiss these symptoms as something harmless.
The same applies if you are nervous, have a rapid heartbeat or trembling hands.
These symptoms, among others could mean your thyroid is on the blink and while you can’t prevent thyroid disease, you can be aware of the symptoms so you can seek timely treatment.
Approximately 30 million Americans have some type of thyroid disorder and about half of those people go undiagnosed, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
The thyroid, a butterfly shaped gland in the neck, is located in the lower center part of the neck, just in front of the trachea, said Dr. Douglas Anderson, an Otolaryngology head and neck surgeon at Ogden Clinic.
The gland regulates a variety of bodily functions, including temperature, metabolism and heartbeat. When it malfunctions, it can be grouped into one of three categories: hypothyroid (underactive), hyperthyroid (overactive) and thyroid nodules and/or neoplasms.
“A healthy thyroid gland is essential to the overall well-being of our bodies and minds.Routine screening should be done regularly by either checking a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level, having a regular physical exam and if indicated, regular ultrasound evaluation of the gland.Most conditions are very manageable and treatable if detected early on,” Anderson said. “To understand the importance of the thyroid gland to a person’s overall health a person just needs to look at a list of problems that can occur when the thyroid is malfunctioning or has an abnormality.”
For example if a person is sensitive to the cold, is constipated, has dry skin or hair, a slow heart rate, depression or fatigue they could have an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism. If they are sensitive to the heat, are anxious, have a rapid heart rate and a tremor, they could have an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, Anderson said.
Other symptoms of thyroid disease include weight gain or loss, nervousness, menstrual irregularities, insomnia, brittle bones, muscle aches, a puffy face, protruding eyeballs, a hoarse voice and difficulty breathing or swallowing.
“Thyroid diseases resulting in either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism may not be very noticeable early on but if not detected and treated can eventually lead to serious and in some cases life threatening consequences,” Anderson said. “However, if diagnosed early on most thyroid conditions are very manageable and can be kept under good control.”
Thyroid nodules are also very common and frequently grow in the thyroid, said Dr. Nadim Bikhazi, an otolaryngologist at Ogden Clinic. The nodules can either be benign or cancerous.
“They are usually detected on examination as a small lump over the thyroid gland. A needle biopsy can confirm the exact nature of the nodule,” Bikhazi said.
Thyroid nodules can be a result of things such as iodine deficiency in the diet, overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue, cystic nodules, chronic inflammation or thyroid cancer.
“For over active disease, the most common diagnosis is Graves disease, an autoimmune illness where the body reacts against the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone,” Bikhazi said. “For under active disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause. This again is an autoimmune disease where the immune system slowly destroys the thyroid gland resulting in low thyroid production.”
Anderson said simple blood test, TSH, is very helpful in diagnosing hypothyroid and hyperthyroid conditions.In addition most diseases of the thyroid are very treatable including thyroid cancer. However patients who are older and have a rapidly growing thyroid mass may have a rare but very aggressive form of cancer that is difficult to treat.The treatment for hypothyroidism (underactive) is hormone replacement (levothyroxine, Armor Thyroid).The treatment for hyperthyroidism (overactive) includes thyroid hormone blocking agents (Tapazole), medications to control heart rate and blood pressure (Beta Blockers), treatment to render the gland less functional (radioactive iodine ablation) and surgery (to remove the entire or majority of the gland.