Thyroid disorders

Tuesday, March 2, 2004
What is the thyroid?
It is a butterfly shaped gland found at the base of the neck in front of the windpipe (trachea). The thyroid produces thyroid hormone which helps regulate our metabolism. Thyroid hormones affect nearly every tissue in our bodies. They influence protein building, energy production, cholesterol production, heart rhythms, menstrual cycles and fat tissue breakdown. In order to make thyroid hormones, the body needs to get iodine from food and water. The thyroid gland also produces the hormone calcitonin which helps regulate our calcium levels.

What are the symptoms of an overactive thyroid?
Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) can produce symptoms including sweating, palpitations, racing heart, muscle weakness, anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping, weight loss, intolerance to warm temperatures, bulging of the eyes, nail problems, changes in menstruation and vision changes.

What are the symptoms of an underactive thyroid?
Hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) can produce symptoms including intolerance to cold, changes to texture of hair, skin, nails, constipation, fluid retention, hoarseness, headaches, menstrual cycle changes, aches and pains, abnormal nerve sensations (burning, pins and needles, numbness) fatigue, mood changes and depression. For more information, talk to your GP.

What should you do if you suspect you may have a thyroid problem?
See your GP for a check up and talk through any concerns. If your doctor suspects a thyroid disorder, a blood test can determine your thyroid hormone levels. If physical examination detects irregularities in size, lumps or nodules, then a scan may be performed called a radionuclide study.

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