Thyroid is a disease that we have often heard of. We all know someone who is suffering from it. Depending on the severity of the disease, thyroid affects the body in various ways and needs to be kept under control. But do you know what exactly takes place in your body when you get thyroid? How can you be sure that you are suffering from it? As a matter of fact, most people suffering from it don’t even know that they have the disease! This is because the occurrence of this disease in your body is a slow and gradual process and there is no definite way of determining it.
In the recent years, the number of people suffering from thyroid in our country has increased rapidly. It tends to be very common among individuals falling in the age group of 20 to 40 years due to our unhealthy lifestyles and busy routines. A lot of times, the reasons may even be genetic. According to a study conducted on the victims of this disease, the number of people in India suffering from thyroid is 42 million. The problem with this disease is that unlike other diseases, the ease of diagnosis, the accessibility of medical treatment and the visibility that it offers the treating physician is very low and the only way to successfully keep it under control is an early diagnosis.
So what exactly is thyroid? It is small, butterfly-shaped gland which is located at the base of your neck right below the Adam’s apple. This gland plays a huge role in your body when it comes to the regular functioning of some of the most important parts of your body such as heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. A person suffers from thyroid disease when this gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This condition is termed at hypothyroidism. In the case of the thyroid gland becoming overactive and producing excess hormones, the condition is termed as hyperthyroidism. Both these conditions can have serious ill-effects on the body and, therefore, maintaining a balanced count of hormones produced by the thyroid gland is very important. Hypothyroidism can reduce the level of metabolism in the body and directly affect the bloodstream causing dysfunction in growth, development and other cellular processes. On the contrary, hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism rate and causes problems such as irregular heart rhythms and osteoporosis.
Initially, symptoms of thyroid in the body are very subtle and hence patients often tend to ignore them. Hypothyroidism is usually characterized by unexplained weight gain, hair loss, irregular menstrual flow, infertility, lethargy, rough voice and slow speech. The level of intensity of these systems can vary from patient to patient and can increase as the disease spreads into the body. Protruding and excessively drowsy eyes, hair loss or grey hair and a tender and lumpy throat along with difficulty in swallowing are some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To determine whether you have thyroid or not, you need to get a blood test done to check the hormone levels in your body. The doctor will check for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and T4 (thyroxine). Extremely low or extremely high levels of T4 means that you need treatment. The doctor will prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone T4 or advise you to undergo a surgery. Strong medications can interfere with how your body absorbs the synthetic thyroid hormone so it important that you choose a doctor who knows about all the medicines, herbs and supplements. Hypothyroidism in pregnant ladies can affect the baby and lead to problems with mental development. Severe conditions can cause unconsciousness or lead the person to go into a coma.
What can you do?
The best thing to do is conduct a self-examination on your thyroid gland if you experience any of the symptoms. Feel your thyroid gland by running your hands along the area right below your Adam’s apple. Check for any bumps or swelling. Tip your head back slightly. As you swallow and your windpipe rises and goes back to its original position, look at your neck. Check closely for a protrusion in the area. Repeat the procedure several times until you are sure and if not, go visit a doctor.
Thyroid is a long term disease and maintaining efficient functioning of your body while suffering from it is not always easy. Extreme cases can lead to anxiety, depression, stress and many other mental disorders. But with the right kind of precautionary measures, treatments, medication and advice from physicians, you will be able to keep it under control and keep your body healthy and happy.