Thyroid health – the often overlooked gland

Chances are you will probably never think about your thyroid health until you suffer from a disorder that can wreak havoc to almost everything – from your skin to your mood and even your sleep!

Thyroid health rarely gets the limelight of more well-known areas like heart health or lung health, yet a thyroid disorder can also lead to fatal consequences. In fact, an estimated 60 percent of people with some form of thyroid disorder don’t know they have one. 

It is a small “butterfly-shaped” gland that forms the body’s endocrine system and virtually influencing every other organ in the body. 

The thyroid gland is responsible for a wide variety of functions. It sets the body’s pace that affects how fast or slow your brain works, heart, muscles, liver and even how nice you feel about yourself. It keeps the body’s metabolism under control through the action of thyroid hormones, which it produces by extracting iodine from the blood. 

And because the thyroid gland influences a variety of body functions, it is important to seek medical help if any problems arise. And if you notice symptoms of thyroid disorders, be sure to get tested and examined by a doctor.  

What are the different types of thyroid disorders?

Thyroid disorders can range from a small, harmless goitre, which is nothing but an engraved thyroid gland to causing fatal cancers

It starts and involves the abnormal production of thyroid hormones, namely T3 and T4 hormones that can result in two different conditions.

In case, when the thyroid produces too many of these hormones, it causes a medical condition that uses energy very quickly. It leads to causing persistent tiredness and unexplained weight loss even when not trying to. This is called hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). 

On the other hand, when the gland produces lesser hormones, it is called a condition called hypothyroidism (underactive) that causes increased weight gain and might leave you very sensitive to cold temperature. 

What are the signs and symptoms to watch out for? 

A man holding his neck due to thyroid disorder pain, thyroid health, GP in Victoria point

Symptoms to watch out for hyperthyroidism 

  • Facing trouble concentrating at work and studies 
  • Unusually sensitive to warm conditions
  • Having irregular and fast heart rate 
  • Feeling irritable and nervous 
  • Losing weight without trying 
  • Sleeplessness 
  • Diarrhea 

Symptoms to watch out for hypothyroidism

  • Feeling cold even when others are comfortable 
  • Feeling exhausted without any strenuous work 
  • Having a slower heart rate than usual 
  • Suffering from constipation 
  • Unexplained weight gain 
  • Dry skin  

Diagnosis of thyroid disorders 

When a thyroid disorder is suspected, your GP will usually start your diagnosis with thyroid blood tests and additional testings for confirmation. 

When diagnosing thyroid disorders, your clinician will assess the pituitary gland – thyroid gland relationship. This is done by measuring the levels of thyroid hormones – T3 and T4 hormones in your blood, as well as TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) blood levels. 

Since thyroid disorders are widely overlooked and underdiagnosed, it is crucial to talk to your doctors about screening. A simple blood test can confirm if your thyroid gland is working fine.