What to know about common thyroid disorders
Problems can occur if the thyroid overproduces hormones, when it is known as hyperthyroidism, or underproduces hormones, which is called hypothyroidism. These issues may also result in the growth of the thyroid, which is called a goiter.
Researchers estimate that about 13 million people have an undiagnosed thyroid condition in the United States.
This article looks at the different types of thyroid disorders, what causes them, what their symptoms are, and how doctors diagnose and treat them.
Hypothyroidism is when a person’s thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It is a more common thyroid issue than hyperthyroidism.
Not having enough thyroid hormone can slow down a person’s metabolism. Hypothyroidism is especially common in women.
Causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland
- radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism
- radiation therapy for head and neck cancers
- some medications, such as lithium for bipolar disorder and sulfonylureas for diabetes
- damaged or missing thyroid gland, often occurring from birth
- too much or too little iodine intake in the diet
- Turner syndrome, a chromosomal disorder affecting females
- pituitary gland damage
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disorder. It is sometimes called Hashimoto’s disease or shortened to Hashimoto’s.
The exact cause of Hashimoto’s is unclear, but heredity may play a role, and having a close family member with the condition may increase a person’s risk.
Having another autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, or lupus, also increases the risk for Hashimoto’s.
Development of the disease can be very slow, occurring over months or even years.
Hypothyroid symptoms can vary, but may include:
- feeling cold
- tiring more easily
- dry skin
A person may also develop a goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid gland. This condition happens because the gland tries to compensate for the lack of thyroid hormone.
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