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Thyroid Disorders – Hyperthyroidism & Hypothyroidism

  • What are thyroid disorders?

    The thyroid is a gland located at the front of the neck. It produces two hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which regulates many important metabolic processes in the body.

    The thyroid can stop working properly and become overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). Women are more prone to thyroid disorders than men.

  • Several causes lead to hyperthyroidism:

    • A common cause is Graves’ disease. This occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that cause the uncontrollable production of thyroxine. This leads to eye irritation, swelling and vision problems. The causes of Graves’ disease are unclear but genetics might be a factor.
    • Hyperactive thyroid nodules that secrete excessive thyroxine.
    • Thyroiditis – swelling of the thyroid gland
  • Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

    • Anxiety, nervousness and irritability
    • Bulging eyes
    • Changes in menstruation
    • Diarrhoea
    • Fast heart rate and palpitations (fast, strong and irregular heartbeat)
    • Tiredness
    • Muscle weakness and trembling
    • Sensitivity to heat
    • Insomnia
    • Weight loss

    Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

    • Changes in menstruation
    • Constipation
    • Depression
    • Tiredness
    • Brittle fingernails and hair
    • Muscle pain and weakness
    • Pale skin and puffy face
    • Sensitivity to cold
    • Slow heart rate
    • Weight gain
  • The treatment of hyperthyroidism depends on the patient's age and general health, as well as the cause and severity of the condition. There are several treatment options:

    • Anti-thyroid medicine is the first-line of treatment that blocks the production of thyroid hormones and slowly reduces the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
    • Hormone replacement therapy aims at controlling thyroid hormone levels by using a man-made thyroid hormone pill.
    • Radioactive iodine treatment is used if anti-thyroid medications do not work. Radioactive iodine is taken orally and can reduce thyroid activity significantly and even permanently.
    • Thyroidectomy (total or partial thyroid removal) is a surgical procedure used to treat diseases of the thyroid gland including thyroid cancer. This is a last-resort option and you may need to take life-long medication to maintain normal thyroid hormone levels.

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    • Eye problems, such as bulging eyes and blurry vision (caused by Graves’ disease)
    • Fever and hallucinations
    • Irregular heart beat and heart failure
    • Osteoporosis (weakening of bones)
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