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Thyroid Disorder

  • What is a Thyroid Disorder?

    The thyroid is a gland at the front of the neck that produces 2 types of hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which control various important metabolic processes, such as growth and energy expenditure. The thyroid can fail and become overactive, leading to hyperthyroidism, or underactive, leading to hypothyroidism. Women are more prone to thyroid disorders than men.

  • Various causes lead to hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid):

    • The most common cause is Graves’ disease. This disease causes the immune system to produce antibodies, which leads to the uncontrollable production of thyroxine. The disease leads to eye irritation, swelling and vision problems. The causes are unknown but genetics might be a factor
    • Overactive thyroid can be caused by hyperactive thyroid nodules which produce excessive thyroxine
    • The swelling of the thyroid gland, known as thyroiditis, can also lead to hyperthyroidism
  • Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) include:

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

     

    Symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) include:

    • Changes in menstruation
    • Constipation
    • Depression
    • Tiredness and sleepiness
    • Brittle fingernails and hair
    • Muscle pain and weakness
    • Pale skin and puffy face
    • Sensitivity to cold
    • Slow heart rate
    • Weight gain
  • Trreatment of hyperthyroidism varies depending on age, general health and the cause and severity of the condition. Treatment options include:

    • Anti-thyroid medicine as the first-line treatment. It blocks the production of thyroid hormones, thus reducing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism
    • Hormone replacement therapy, which aims at controlling thyroid hormone levels with a man-made thyroid hormone pill
    • Radioactive iodine treatment is used if anti-thyroid medications have no effect. It is given orally and can reduce thyroid activity significantly and even permanently
    • Surgical removal of the thyroid gland is the last resort. Lifelong medication to maintain normal thyroid hormone levels will be needed after surgery
    • Eye problems, such as bulging eyes and blurry vision (caused by Graves’ disease)
    • Fever and hallucinations
    • Irregular heart rhythm and heart failure
    • Osteoporosis (weakening of bones)
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