The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland found in the front of the neck (in front of the windpipe). The thyroid’s major function is to regulate metabolism. The gland secretes two hormones which in turn are involved in controlling heart rate and blood pressure as well as regulation of body temperature, amongst others. Overactivity and underactivity of the gland are associated with symptoms related to metabolism.
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.