Most often associated with changes in metabolism, your thyroid plays a major role in maintaining homeostasis and and contributes to healthy growth and function of the body. Hypothyroidism is the most well-known disorder of the thyroid, but hyperthyroidism is also a serious medical condition. While weight gain or weight loss is often linked to disorders of the thyroid, they can also cause problems with bone development and cardiovascular disease.
Diseases of the thyroid
According to the American Thyroid Association, there are approximately 20 million people living with thyroid disease in the United States, over half of whom are not even aware of it. The three main diseases of the thyroid are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and Grave’s Disease.
It is commonly known that hypothyroidism can cause moderate weight gain, but there are several other symptoms to be aware of. The American Thyroid Association states that people suffering from hypothyroidism often feel cold and may struggle with dry skin. Those living with this thyroid disorder may also experience forgetfulness, depression, and constipation. Because these symptoms are so general, and associated with myriad health complications, a blood test is required to definitively diagnose a patient with hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is caused by an overproduction of thyroid hormones, specifically thyroxine. While The Mayo Clinic points out that hyperthyroidism can cause severe health problems when left untreated, most patients respond well to treatment. This treatment can be as simple as a daily oral medication, and as complicated as surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid.
Symptoms may include unintentional weight loss, or an increase in anxiety. More seriously, untreated hyperthyroidism can cause serious cardiac issues, such as a rapid or irregular heart beat and palpitations, or occlusions caused by blood clots.
Grave’s Disease is an autoimmune disease that results in hyperthyroidism. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, Grave’s disease affects approximately 1 in 200 Americans, making it the most prevalent form of hyperthyroidism in the United States. Onset typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and is more common in patients who are also suffering from other autoimmune diseases. If left untreated, serious cardiovascular symptoms can develop. These symptoms range from blood clots to heart attack and stroke. An overproduction of thyroid hormones can also result in decreased bone density, leading to osteoporosis.
One complication unique to Grave’s Disease is an ocular disease called Grave’s ophthalmopathy. Signs and symptoms include pain in the eyes, double vision, and sensitivity to light. Occasionally, the end result may be an overall decrease in vision.
Thyroid disease is an extremely prevalent form of metabolic disease, effecting up to 20 million Americans. Women are significantly more likely to develop thyroid disease, and symptoms range from minor to very serious medical conditions. Because symptoms of thyroid disease often overlap with those of other health problems, a blood test is necessary to diagnose it. Once you have a confirmed diagnosis, treatment is typically simple and most people respond well.