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Thyroid Disease Symptoms
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The thyroid, a small gland located in the front of the neck, produces hormones that regulate the rate at which every cell in your body functions. Accordingly, thyroid disease can significantly impact a person's overall health. If the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, the body's metabolism slows, causing listlessness and other symptoms; an overproduction of thyroid hormone results in feelings of nervousness and a faster heart rate. Other thyroid diseases result in different symptoms.
Visit our thyroid resources page for a detailed description of the thyroid, its function, and thyroid disease symptoms.
Depending upon the type of thyroid disease, symptoms can vary radically:
Hyperthyroidism -- A condition in which the thyroid produces too much hormone, hyperthyroidism most commonly affects women between the ages of 20 and 40; however, women of any age and men can be affected as well. Graves' disease, a condition in which the immune system stimulates the thyroid gland, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, but there can be other causes including thyroid nodules (small bumps on the thyroid) and taking too much thyroid hormone medication to treat a separate condition. This thyroid disease's symptoms may include the following:
Hypothyroidism -- Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid produces too little hormone. As with hyperthyroidism, it's important too see your doctor if you feel you may have this thyroid disease, symptoms of which include:
Graves' Disease -- As previously mentioned, Graves' disease results from the immune system stimulating the thyroid gland, causing it to produce excessive amounts of the two thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). Graves' disease, also known as diffuse toxic goiter, is far more common in women than in men, and typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 40. Individuals afflicted with Graves' disease may display a number of thyroid disease symptoms, including:
Hashimoto's Disease -- Hashimoto's disease, like Graves’ disease, is a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. In this case, the antibodies do not stimulate thyroid hormone production but rather diminish it, with the result being hypothyroidism. Hashimoto's disease, also called Hashimoto's thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is most likely an inherited condition and runs in families. Its thyroid disease symptoms may include the following:
Postpartum Thyroiditis -- This condition results from an inflammation of the thyroid gland, and affects about 5% of women in the months after they've given birth. Typically there are two phases of this thyroid disease, and symptoms vary according to the stage: the first often is hyperthyroidism, which results from thyroid gland damage. If the damage does not return to normal, postpartum thyroiditis leads to hypothyroidism, which may exhibit the thyroid disease symptoms listed above.
Thyroid Cancer -- Thyroid cancer arises when small tumors called thyroid nodules grow on the thyroid gland. Having a nodule on your thyroid is quite common, and 90% to 95% of thyroid nodules are noncancerous. However, those that are cancerous can spread through the body, or metastasize, and become life-threatening. Thyroid cancer often exhibits no thyroid disease symptoms, and is typically found during a routine examination. Malignant nodules tend to be firmer than benign nodules, so they can often be identified by touch.
Please visit our thyroid resources page to learn more about the various thyroid disease symptoms. If you feel that you're suffering from these or other thyroid disease symptoms, see your doctor for a blood test and proper diagnosis.
An enlarged thyroid, known as goiter, is often a sign of thyroid disease. Because an enlarged thyroid can indicate a number of different conditions, including thyroid cancer, one should consult a physician for an examination. While goiters are typically a thyroid disease symptom indicating either hyper- or hypothyroidism, they can also be the result of a nutritional deficiency, a lack of iodine in the diet. Iodine deficiency affects nearly one billion people worldwide but is rare in more highly developed countries where steps have been taken to include iodine in a regular diet.
A swollen or enlarged thyroid could indicate the presence of thyroid nodules, the vast majority of which are benign, but which should be evaluated. Thyroid nodules do not necessarily imply serious thyroid disease, and symptoms can vary from negligible to severe. Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms, and a person may not even be aware of the nodule's presence until it is discovered, perhaps during a routine medical examination.
To determine whether thyroid nodules are cancerous, doctors may perform a number of tests ranging from ultrasound to biopsy. Visit our thyroid nodules page for more information about thyroid nodules, tests typically performed, and treatment options.
The Hormone Health Network's mission is to work directly with the Endocrine Society and member endocrinologists to translate scientific findings to benefit patients suffering from endocrine disorders and to enlighten the general public about new developments in endocrinology. Please refer to us for up-to-date information on thyroid disorders and thyroid disease symptoms, as well as the many other endocrine system disorders.
Additional Information About the Endocrine System:
Kenneth Burman, MD
Leonard Wartofsky, MD