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Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid conditions are disorders that affect the structure or function of your thyroid. This butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the front of your neck makes important thyroid hormones. They control your body’s metabolism, including how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats.

Some thyroid conditions and causes include:

  • Congenital thyroid defects – These are thyroid disorders present at birth. In severe cases, low thyroid hormone levels from birth can lead to goiter, learning disabilities and below-average height. All infants in the United States are screened for this at birth.

  • Goiter – An enlarged thyroid gland that can result in visible neck swelling.

  • Graves' disease – This is an autoimmune system disorder in which anti-thyroid antibodies cause the thyroid gland to function too fast. It is more common among women and the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.

  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis – Autoimmune destruction of the thyroid results in lower thyroid hormone production.

  • Hyperthyroidism – Your thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormones than your body needs.

  • Hypothyroidism – Your thyroid gland does not make as many thyroid hormones as your body needs.

  • Thyroid cancer – Cancer can start in thyroid gland tissues, sometimes caused by radiation exposure.

  • Thyroid nodules – These are fluid-filled cysts or benign (noncancerous) or cancerous lumps in the thyroid gland, which may or may not be making thyroid hormones. Nodules of the thyroid are quite common, especially in women over 50.

  • Thyroiditis – This is inflammation (swelling) of the thyroid.  It may be painful or painless.

  • Pituitary and hypothalamus disorders – Injury to these parts of your brain can lead to thyroid problems.

Other causes of thyroid problems include:

  • Certain medications, such as lithium or heart medicines

  • Getting too much iodine from diet or supplements 

  • Environmental or medical radiation exposure 

Symptoms

Symptoms of thyroid disease vary depending on your condition and the severity of the hormone imbalance.

Hypothyroidism symptoms can include:

  • Aching muscles and joints

  • Dry skin

  • Fatigue

  • Feeling cold

  • Poor concentration or "brain fog”

  • Retaining fluids

  • Constipation

  • Depression

  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding 

Hyperthyroidism symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue

  • Nervousness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Tremor

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Heat intolerance 

  • Increase in bowel movements

  • Abnormal weight loss

  • Increased sweating

Symptoms of Graves’ disease may begin slowly or suddenly. In some instances, you may not have any symptoms. Graves' disease symptoms can include:

  • Bulging eyes 

  • Thick, reddened skin, especially on your shins and upper feet

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle weakness

  • Nervousness

  • Irritability 

  • Sensitivity to heat

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Shaky hands

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat

  • Diarrhea

  • Unexplained weight loss in spite of a good appetite.

  • Goiter or neck swelling

Treatment Options

Treatment for thyroid disorders depends on your condition and symptoms. Your doctor will review your medical history and conduct tests, including a physical exam and thyroid tests.

If you have a nodule or lump, your doctor may perform a needle biopsy or other surgical procedure. Your treatment plan may include:

  • Medication – Doctors may prescribe thyroid hormone pills to replace hormones, decrease hormone production or prevent the release of hormones. Medication can also manage symptoms such as a fast heart rate.

  • Radioiodine therapy – Radioactive iodine can shrink or kill thyroid cells.

  • Thyroid surgery – Surgery may be necessary to remove a large goiter or a nodule within the gland, or if you may have thyroid cancer. If surgeons remove your entire thyroid gland, you’ll need to take synthetic thyroid hormone for life.

When to See a Doctor

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of a thyroid disorder, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat thyroid disorders.