Medically reviewed by Dr. Tan Chuan Chien, Consultant General Surgeon (Breast Surgery)
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the front of your neck, wrapped around your windpipe (trachea). It is part of the endocrine system responsible for producing hormones, mainly thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are essential in many of your body’s processes, helping to regulate your body’s vital functions.
The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in your endocrine system — releasing and regulating hormones that control your body’s metabolism. This energy is utilised throughout your body to ensure that your body systems are functioning properly. The thyroid gland will typically produce the exact amount of hormones required to keep your body’s metabolism in balance.
Like any other organ in the body, the thyroid can also malfunction, resulting in thyroid-related diseases. In fact, thyroid diseases are relatively common, with women being 10 times more prone to thyroid problems.
Here are the 5 common thyroid diseases that affect women.
Goitre is a noncancerous type of thyroid disease in which the thyroid gland swells and enlarges. Anyone can develop a goitre regardless of age; however, it is known that women above the age of 40 are more likely at risk.
One or more of the following common symptoms may include:
Iodine deficiency is one of the leading causes of goitres. As iodine is one of the key minerals in the production of thyroid hormones, a lack of iodine in your diet can lead to the development of endemic goitres.
Insufficient thyroid hormones produced can also lead to the enlargement of the thyroid to make up for this shortage, forming a goitre.
Several tests can be carried out to diagnose a goitre, including the following:
The typical treatment methods of goitre are:
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormones, and your body cells work faster than usual. This results in a high metabolic rate.
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include the following:
A variety of conditions can cause hyperthyroidism, including:
Several tests can be carried out to diagnose hyperthyroidism, including the following:
Treatments for hyperthyroidism damages the thyroid gland to reduce the production of thyroid hormones.
On the other hand, if too little thyroid hormones are produced, you may develop another condition called hypothyroidism. This is the complete opposite of hyperthyroidism, as your body cells will work slower than expected (underactive).
Some of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism may include the following:
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It is an autoimmune disorder where your body’s antibodies attack and destroy your thyroid glands, resulting in the underproduction of thyroid hormones.
Over response to hyperthyroidism treatment such as an excess amount of radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications may also develop hypothyroidism instead as you may end up lowering thyroid hormone production by too much. Similarly, surgery performed to remove part or all of the thyroid gland may also result in an underactive thyroid as hormone production is significantly reduced.
Tests to diagnose hypothyroidism are similar to hyperthyroidism.
They may include:
The typical main treatment of hypothyroidism is to take thyroid hormone medications. These medications replace the shortage of hormones produced by your thyroid gland, ensuring your hormone levels are balanced. However, the amount of thyroid hormone medications to consume must be carefully measured as too much of it may cause hyperthyroidism.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder where your immune system’s antibodies attack and destroy your thyroid glands, resulting in the underproduction of thyroid hormones.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is different from hypothyroidism as one affects the immune system while the other affects the thyroid gland. It is one of the common possible causes of hypothyroidism. However, if you are suffering from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, you may not necessarily develop hypothyroidism.
Common symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are similar to hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs when your immune system’s antibodies mistakenly attack and destroy your thyroid glands. The actual reason is largely unknown, but many believe that viruses might play a significant role.
Diagnosing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is similar to hypothyroidism. Blood tests are performed to measure thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Low thyroid hormone and high TSH levels can be signals for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. The blood tests can also reveal abnormal antibodies that might be damaging the thyroid.
There is generally no exact treatment for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. However, thyroid hormone medications to replace the lost hormones may likely be recommended to raise hormone levels.
Thyroid nodules are abnormal growths that may be solid or liquid-filled, and they tend to develop on or in the thyroid gland.
Thyroid nodules and goitres are not exactly the same. Thyroid nodules are lumps that develop in the thyroid gland, while a goitre is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. A goitre can also develop from the formation of several nodules.
Common symptoms of thyroid nodules are also similar to other types of thyroid diseases.
The actual cause of thyroid nodules is unknown, but several medical conditions may result in their formation.
They may include:
During the physical examination, an apparent swelling of your neck may hint the presence of thyroid nodules. Thereafter, imaging tests such as an ultrasound or thyroid scan may be conducted to accurately check for the presence of nodules.
Once a thyroid nodule is detected, blood and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) tests may be performed to measure thyroid hormone levels. A biopsy may also be conducted to determine if the nodule is cancerous.
As thyroid nodules are mostly benign, there is usually no need for treatment. However, if the nodules grow over time and related symptoms appear, treatment may be necessary.
The treatment options for thyroid nodules also depend on whether these nodules result in an overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid. If the thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous, surgery to remove these nodules will most likely be recommended by a specialist.
Most thyroid diseases such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism cannot be prevented.
However, you can prevent complications by getting diagnosed early and following your doctor’s prescribed treatment.
Schedule a thyroid examination and consultation with our thyroid specialist Dr. Tan Chuan Chien today: https://cctansurgery.com.sg/contact-us/
We are equipped with modern and updated equipment, and a team that will take care of all your needs.
Dr. Tan is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS). He is also accredited to practice as a Specialist in both Singapore and Australia.
Dr. Tan firmly believes that transdisciplinary care is the key to every patient’s recovery journey.
Dr Tan is available via video-consultations for patients who are not in Singapore.
Dr. Tan Chuan Chien is a Fellowship-trained Breast and Endocrine Surgeon practicing as a Consultant General Surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore. He also sees patients at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre and Parkway East Medical Centre. Dr. Tan is a registered Specialist Surgeon (General Surgery) in both Singapore and Australia.
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