The Most Common Thyroid Disorders
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located just below the Adam's apple. It functions by taking in iodine and creating hormones that regulate cellular metabolism. Every single cell in the body relies on the thyroid to maintain life.
The most common thyroid disorders are hormone imbalances, nodules, and goiter. Hypothyroidism (also called underactive thyroid) is more common than hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Abnormal growths in the thyroid are far more likely to be benign compared to cancerous. For all of the most common thyroid disorders, women are more likely to be affected.
Specialized doctors called endocrinologists diagnose and treat the most common thyroid disorders. For diagnosis and treatment options you can set up endocrinologist appointments online.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid does not secrete enough hormones. According to the American Thyroid Association it is the most common thyroid disorder and it affects up to 15% of the US population. Hypothyroidism is more common among people who have had previous thyroid surgery, goiter, radiation treatment on the neck, an autoimmune disease, or a pregnancy or delivery in the past 6 months. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are usually treated throughout life with levothyroxine.
Hypothyroidism symptoms may include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own thyroid. Because the body attacks the thyroid, the thyroid becomes smaller and cannot produce enough thyroid hormone. This results in hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism; it means the thyroid secretes too many hormones. Hyperthyroidism is less common than hypothyroidism, but is still one of the most common thyroid disorders. It affects approximately 1.2% of people in the US. There are a few options for treating hyperthyroidism depending on the cause, your age, and the severity of the condition.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Tachycardia – heart rate faster than 100 beats per minute
- Palpitations – pounding heartbeat
- Arrhythmia – irregular heartbeat
- Unintentional weight loss
- Anxiety, nervousness, or irritability
- Increased appetite
- More frequent bowel movements
- Fine, brittle hair
- Thinning skin
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble sleeping
- Goiter – an enlarged thyroid gland in the front of your neck
Graves' disease is another autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its thyroid. It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism accounting for a little less than half of cases. Graves’ disease is more common in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years.
A goiter is an abnormally enlarged thyroid gland. It doesn't necessarily indicate dysfunction. However, goiters can be present as a symptom of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or less common conditions like cancer. Goiters are most frequently caused by iodine deficiencies. Goiter thyroid enlargement disease affects approximately 9% of the population.
Thyroid nodules are lumps in the neck caused by abnormal growth in the thyroid. Nodules are similar to goiters in that they cause enlargement of the thyroid, but nodules are discrete lumps of abnormal cell growth rather than an enlargement of the whole thyroid. Nodules are quite common amongst US populations. Estimates of people with thyroid nodules range from 20% to 76%. Most often thyroid nodules are benign, but around 5% of nodules are malignant.
Thyroid cancer is not one of the most common thyroid disorders, but it does occur in a small percentage of the US population (0.00015%).
Treatment of the Most Common Thyroid Disorders
You can get thyroid conditions diagnosed with thyroid tests. If you are diagnosed with one of these common thyroid disorders, you have many options for treatment. For diagnosis, treatment, or any other thyroid related issues, you can set up an online appointment with PlushCare and see a thyroid specialist today.