Because of its significant involvement in metabolic function, energy levels, and overall health, this small but powerful gland must be well nourished and cared for appropriately, so that we can function optimally. Diet and exercise are critical in the care and keeping of this gland, though there are genetic and environmental factors that can affect the degree to which it functions, as well. When the thyroid produces too much or too little of its hormones, is removed, or becomes cancerous, disastrous metabolic and functional changes, often in the form of disease states, can occur.
Thyroid Diseases and Disorders
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough of its’ hormones and becomes underactive. In the absence of sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, one may experience depression, memory problems, gastrointestinal distress, unplanned fluctuations in weight, dry skin, cardiac concerns, exhaustion, temperature sensitivity, and in extremely rare cases, coma and death.
This condition can be caused by a number of preexisting conditions, such as Hashimoto’s Disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid, thereby disrupting the production of thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism may also occur after a thyroidectomy, in which all or some of the thyroid is removed, generally due to cancer or other diseases. While it does not matter how or why one contracts hypothyroidism, it is critical that patients with the condition take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of their lives. This is vital in order to avoid subsequent and compounding illnesses.
When the thyroid produces too much of its hormone, it becomes overactive and manifests as hyperthyroidism. Frequently caused by Grave’s Disease, a condition like Hashimoto’s that attacks the thyroid, hyperthyroidism can also be caused by different types of goiter, itself caused by insufficient levels of iodine.
Hyperthyroidism can be detected when symptoms such as anxiety, shaking, increased sweating, restlessness and agitation, sleep disturbances, brittle or cracking skin, hair, and nails, and unplanned weight loss occur. Treatment includes radioactive iodine, an assortment of medications to address individual symptoms, and in extreme cases, surgery.