The thyroid’s major function is to regulate metabolism. The gland secretes various types of thyroxine which in turn control the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature regulation, metabolism amongst other things. Overactivity and underactivity of the gland is associated with symptoms which are related to how quickly your metabolism works. The gland is the usually the size of a walnut and found in the front of the neck just above the sternum.
Diseases of the gland can be divided into four broad categories:
- Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism / Hashimoto’s disease)
- Overactive Thyroid (Hyperthyroidism / Grave’s disease
- Anatomical disorders (cysts, additional lobes)
- Tumours (benign adenomas or cancers )
Undiagnosed thyroid problems can dramatically increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, hair loss, sexual dysfunction and infertility.
Common early symptoms of over or under active thyroid problems can include:
- Persistent Fatigue – waking up exhausted or needing a nap through the day. Night time insomnia.
- Weight Changes – Unexplained weight gain or weight loss.
- High/Low Cholesterol
- Changes in Hair & Skin – Brittle, dry hair, unexplained hair loss. Dry, thickened or scaly skin.
- Aches/Pains in muscles & joints or a feeling of swelling or discomfort in the neck.
- Irregular Periods
- Changes in bowel habits
- Depression or Anxiety
Over and underactive thyroid glands are often best treated by medicines and tablets, however when the thyroid gland enlarges or a lump becomes apparent, it is important that the condition is assessed either by an experienced surgeon, should surgery be required or an endocrinologist.