A Deep Dive into Thyroid Disease: Part Two

In part one of this blog series, we looked at various types of thyroid disease and considered potential causes. In part two, let’s explore symptoms, risk factors, and diagnosis of as well as treatment options for the health condition.

First, let’s consider common symptoms of thyroid disease.

Symptoms of thyroid disease vary depending on your specific diagnosis. Making the disorder even more challenging to identify, the symptoms are often very similar to other medical conditions and life stages. It can be tricky, then, to know if your symptoms are related to a thyroid issue or something else. 

Generally, the symptoms can be divided into two groups: signs that you have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and signs that you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism, or too much thyroid hormone, may include:

  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability, and/or nervousness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Losing weight
  • Having an enlarged thyroid gland (a goiter)
  • Irregular menstrual periods or having your cycle stop completely
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Vision problems or eye irritation

Meanwhile, potential symptoms of hypothyroidism, or too little thyroid hormone, are:

  • Fatigue
  • Gaining weight
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frequent and/or heavy menstrual periods
  • Dry and coarse hair
  • A hoarse voice
  • Intolerance to cold temperatures

Hair loss is also a symptom of both types of thyroid disease, particularly hypothyroidism. 

Now that we understand the symptoms, it’s time to address who is most affected by thyroid disease.

Thyroid disease is incredibly common, with over 20 million Americans having some type of the disorder. It can affect anyone, regardless of gender or age. However, it’s important to note that women are five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with it than men. It may be present at birth (usually hypothyroidism) or develop as you get older (for instance, in women after menopause).

Additionally, there are certain risk factors that increase your chance of developing thyroid disease, including:

  • A family history of the health condition
  • Certain medical conditions, such as pernicious anemia, Type 1 diabetes, primary adrenal insufficiency, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogen’s syndrome, and Turner syndrome – Note that if you have any sort of autoimmune disorder, you’re more likely to develop another one.
  • Take medicine that is high in iodine, like amiodarone
  • Are older than 60, particularly women
  • Have had past treatment for a thyroid condition or cancer (thyroidectomy or radiation)

As mentioned earlier, thyroid disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mirror so many other health conditions.

Fortunately, there are various tests that can help determine the cause of your issues, including blood tests, imaging tests, and physical exams. Blood tests are one of the more definitive ways, as they measure the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. Your primary care physician may also do an imaging test called a thyroid scan to check for increased size, shape, and/or growths (nodules). An ultrasound can also be used to take a closer look at your thyroid gland. Lastly, a physical exam is a quick way to check the thyroid. Your provider can feel your neck for an enlarged size or any growths.

When it comes to treatment, the goal is to return your thyroid hormone levels to normal, which can be achieved in various ways depending on the cause of your issues. For hyperthyroidism, your primary care physician may prescribe anti-thyroid drugs to stop your thyroid from making hormones. Beta-blockers don’t change your hormone production but help to manage your symptoms. Surgery to remove your thyroid is also an option, although you will need to take thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of your life. For hypothyroidism, thyroid replacement medication is the main treatment option. 

Although thyroid disease is usually a life-long medical condition that requires treatment, know that you can live a normal life!

Contact Dr. Asha Tota-Maharaj, MD at Platinum Primary Care with all your healthcare needs. Come visit us at 2071 Dundee Drive in Winter Park.