Early Detection of Thyroid Problems

11th May 2015

As with any disease, early diagnosis is key. It’s no different for thyroid problems and symptoms in this gland are easy to identify during initial stages.

Inspite of the ease with which problems in the thyroid can be detected, common symptoms are also associated with other conditions in the body. This is why it is necessary to pay close attention to any changes in your body. Don’t panic, but recognise the importance of being alert. In this article, we’ll help you to identify causes for concern in regard to this important gland.

Get to know your thyroids

Before we go into too much detail about problems, let’s take a closer look at the thyroids. Essentially, this gland controls changes in your body and they may be minor at first, but they will persist. Any disfunction of the thyroid will spell a change in your body. Your organs will struggle to cope and this leads to consequences for your general health and well-being.

Frequently seen more often in women, a tell-tale warning sign about trouble in the thyroid gland is an irregularity of the menstrual cycle – or even infertility. Genetics also play a determining role. If anyone related to you by blood has experienced this condition, there’s an increased likelihood that you will, too.

You may already know that your thyroids regulate your metabolism and, as such, are related to all of the functions in your body – not only the physical, but also the mental. This gland’s primary task is to produce two hormones (T3 and T4). These hormones provide the necessary ‘fuel’ to all cells so that they can do their jobs efficiently.

Thyroid gland

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the two types of disorders found in the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is the most common and it causes the organs to work at a much slower pace. Weight gain is its main characteristic. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism leads to rapid weight loss without diet or exercise. Goiter can result from both an under-active and an overactive thyroid gland. Its hallmark is a noticeable increase or swelling in the size of the neck.

What are the signs of thyroid problems?

An imbalance in the production of hormones and failure of a gland can present in various ways. Here are some of the symptoms you might see:

  • Frequent diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Increased intolerance to cold extremities
  • Depression and low self esteem
  • Thickened skin
  • Tiredness, lethargy or chronic fatigue
  • General weakness
  • Lack of concentration and failing memory
  • Weak, brittle hair
  • An erratic menstrual cycle
  • Unusually heavy menstrual flow
  • High cholesterol
  • Depressed immune system
  • Insomnia
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Swollen neck (goiter)
Goiter
A goiter is an increase in size in the thyroid glands. It appears as an exterior tumour in the front lower part of the neck, just under the larynx.
  • Decreased ovulation
  • Apathy
  • Reclusiveness or social isolation
  • Presence of benign nodules

The keys to early detection

If the aforementioned symptoms are recurring or you’re experiencing more than one of them at a time, you should be wary. Know your history! Educate yourself and find out whether thyroid problems run in the family. If you do note any changes that might indicate an issue, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your GP. An evaluation will be made through an examination of your neck, where the first signs of hyper or hypothyroidism appear. A blood test will determine TSH and the levels of thyroid hormone in your system.

Once completed, your doctor can draw conclusions and make an accurate diagnosis. If it’s deemed necessary, medication will be prescribed or a medical procedure may be recommended – surgery, for instance, to remove a goiter.

Medication for thyroid

In most cases, thyroid patients must take medicine for life to control symptoms and to facilitate normal activity. To learn to live with this disease may seem difficult, but it is crucial to leading a life that is as close as possible to the one you had pre-diagnosis.

Experts agree that just one pill per day is usually sufficient to regulate the thyroid gland and to balance your hormones. Because this disease is easily detected and its treatment so simple, early recognition is the most important thing. It can prevent surgery and other invasive procedures. To beat the disease, get familiar with its symptoms and treat it before it spreads and begins to compromise your life.

Images courtesy of Teresa Winslow, cbgrfx123, Rochelle Hartman, Jerry Kirkhart, Andy Melton

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