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Common Thyroid Problems

3-82164 Common Thyroid Problems Illustrations (3) Medical illustration Front view of head and neck showing thyroid.

The thyroid is a gland in the neck. It's controlled by the pituitary gland in the brain. The thyroid makes 2 hormones that control how the body uses and stores energy. If there's a problem with the thyroid, the level of thyroid hormones may change. This can lead to symptoms. Thyroid problems can be treated.

Hypothyroidism

This is when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough hormone. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto thyroiditis. This occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. This damages the thyroid so it doesn't make enough hormones. Hypothyroidism may also occur if there’s a severe deficiency or an excess of iodine in the body. The thyroid needs iodine to make hormone. Problems with the pituitary gland can lead to not enough production of thyroid hormone. Some medicines can cause hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism will also occur if the thyroid gland is removed during surgery. Hypothyroidism, can also develop after pregnancy.

Common symptoms include:

  • Low energy and tiredness

  • Depression

  • Feeling cold

  • Muscle pain

  • Slowed thinking    

  • Constipation

  • Heavier menstrual periods with prolonged bleeding 

  • Weight gain

  • Dry and brittle skin, hair, nails

  • Excessive sleepiness

Hyperthyroidism

This is when the thyroid gland makes too much hormone. The most common cause is Graves disease. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly tells the thyroid to make too much hormone. Another cause is a small bump (nodule) in the thyroid gland. This can cause hyperthyroidism if the cells in the nodule make too much thyroid hormone and stop hormone production in the rest of the thyroid gland.

Common symptoms include:

  • Shaking, nervousness, irritability

  • Feeling hot

  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • Muscle weakness, fatigue

  • Tremors in the hands

  • More frequent bowel movements

  • Shorter, lighter. or irregular menstrual periods

  • Weight loss

  • Hair loss

  • Bulging eyes

Nodules

Nodules are lumps of tissue in the thyroid gland. Most often, the cause of nodules isn’t known. But they may be more common in people who’ve had treatment with radiation to the head or neck. Sometimes nodules can be felt on the outside of the neck. Most of the time, the nodules cause no symptoms and don’t affect the amount of thyroid hormone. Most nodules are not cancer. But sometimes a nodule may be cancer. Risk factors for cancer include age, gender, family history of thyroid cancer, and history of radiation exposure.

What is a goiter?

A goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid gland. When the gland enlarges, you may see or feel a swelling on your neck. A goiter can develop in someone with a normal thyroid, overactive thyroid, or underactive thyroid.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
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