Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland is one of the most important parts of your endocrine system and gland system, producing hormones that regulate practically every metabolic process in your body. That means any type of thyroid disorder can have wide-ranging impacts on your overall health, and it’s important to understand some of the most common thyroid disorder signs and symptoms so you can receive effective treatment and management. Although there is the potential for serious illness as a result of thyroid disorder, the majority of conditions can be managed with proper care. Our functional medicine experts at Chicago Natural Health Care provide the knowledge and experience in this area.

What Is Thyroid Disorder?

The most common types of thyroid disorders fall into two categories: Hyperthyroidism refers to disorders in which the thyroid produces too many hormones, while hypothyroidism refers to insufficient hormone production. Depending on which disorder a person has, she or he may experience thyroid disorder symptoms ranging from excessive sweating and rapid heartbeat to fatigue and muscle aches. Because the thyroid hormones secreted by the thyroid gland play such an important role in regulating so many of the body’s essential processes, the effects of thyroid disorder on the body can be wildly different from person to person.

Thyroid Disorder Signs and Symptoms

It can be difficult for someone to realize she or he may have a thyroid disorder because thyroid disorder’s symptoms are so varied and may seem innocuous or unrelated at first. However, individuals who experience any of these symptoms for extended periods should consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Some of the most common thyroid disorder symptoms related to hyperthyroidism include but are not limited to:

  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Thin skin
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Swollen Thyroid Gland (Goiter)
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Trembling hands or fingers

Some of the most common thyroid disorder signs related to hypothyroidism include but are not limited to:

  • Puffy face
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry Skin
  • Slowed Heart Rate (bradycardia)
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Stiff joints or joint pain
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Muscle aches

If left untreated, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can lead to a progression of symptoms that can make life more difficult for someone with a thyroid disorder. In rare cases, hypothyroidism can develop into myxedema, a life-threatening condition characterized by extremely low blood pressure and decreased body temperature. In extreme cases, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can increase the risk of thyroid cancer.


Thyroid Disorder Causes and Risk Factors

Thyroid disorder’s causes and the risk factors that make someone more susceptible to the disease are varied from person to person, but they are important in understanding in order to diagnose the condition. Thyroid disorder causes linked to hypothyroidism include toxic adenomas, which are thyroid nodules that develop and secrete excessive hormones and chemicals. Hyperthyroidism also can be brought about by thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid that causes the gland to secrete an excessive amount of hormones which is due to an autoimmune process. One of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid, causing it to overproduce hormones.

Among the most common thyroid disorder causes linked to hypothyroidism include lithium use as well as exposure to excessive amounts of medications containing iodide, different than iodine. People who have had a portion of their thyroid removed due to surgery also have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid tissue and disrupts production of thyroid hormones. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common form of hypothyroidism in the United States and is also the most common autoimmune condition in the United States as well. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is often overlooked in thyroid disorder patients.

Although thyroid disorders can strike anyone at any time, there are some risk factors that indicate someone may be more likely to develop a thyroid disorder than others. For example, women over age 60 have a higher incidence of thyroid disorders. People with a family history of thyroid disorders and genetic predispositions also have a higher risk. Women have a higher risk of developing a thyroid disorder within six months of becoming pregnant or giving birth. Certain medical procedures — including thyroid surgery and radiation therapy in the neck or chest area — can increase the risk for thyroid disorders, as well.

Diagnosing Thyroid Disorders

When a doctor suspects that a patient may have a thyroid disorder, the doctor will first check the patient’s medical history for signs of thyroid disorder symptoms or family history of thyroid disease. Next, the doctor may order a blood test to check the patient’s levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH). Although in the past, blood tests were not always an accurate means of diagnosing thyroid disorders, today’s modern TSH tests are much more effective at diagnosing thyroid disorders. If the patient’s TSH levels suggest a thyroid disorder, the doctor may request a thyroid scan or a radioactive iodine uptake test if hyperthyroidism is suspected. It is important to remember, there are many different Thyroid hormones that the thyroid gland produces. Resting on one laboratory marker alone to determine treatment for thyroid disorders often does not solve the problem nor address the root causes of the thyroid disorder. Our functional medicine doctors at Chicago Natural Health Care use the most up-to-date diagnostic laboratory testing for thyroid disorders to accurately identify the underlying problems.

Thyroid Disorder Treatments

Because the symptoms can be so different, there are many thyroid disorder treatments that can be effective at managing them. Some of the most common types of thyroid disorder treatments include:

  • Medication: Synthetic hormones or hormone inhibitors have been shown to be effective at controlling the symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, respectively. However, these and other medications often come with side effects. Beta blockers don’t treat the thyroid but can reduce rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure in some patients.
  • Surgery: In the case of hyperthyroidism, doctors may recommend a partial thyroidectomy in rare cases. This procedure removes a portion of the gland to reduce the overproduction of hormones. This option requires patients to take synthetic hormones for the rest of their lives and carries with it the risk of damage to the vocal cords and the glands that regulate calcium levels in the blood, however.
  • Natural therapies: Natural therapies are extremely effective for thyroid conditions. A functional medicine program and other lifestyle changes can help some people improve their overall health and ease some of the symptoms of their thyroid disorders, as well. The benefits of these therapies include fewer side effects than over-the-counter medications and no risk of damage to other parts of the body.

If you are dealing with a thyroid disorder including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, or Hashimoto’s disease or Graves’ disease, schedule and appointment with one of our Functional Medicine experts today. Call us at 773.418.6877 or click the button below.

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