What Causes Thyroid Disorders?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower neck that produces a variety of hormones. Those hormones regulate a variety of physiological processes including body temperature, growth, metabolism and development. Infants and children need thyroid hormones for proper development of their brains. Thyroid disorders can range from a minor and benign swelling (goiter) to potentially deadly cancer. Most thyroid disorders involve either overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) or underproduction of hormones (hypothyroidism).
What is Graves’ disease?
Graves’ disease is one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism. It is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid and triggers an overproduction of hormones. Symptoms of Grave’s disease include the following:
- Enlarged thyroid (goiter)
- Graves’ dermopathy – characteristic abnormally red and thick skin on the shins or tops of the feet
- Graves’ ophthalmopathy – characteristic bulging eyes
- Weight loss
- Slight tremor of hands and fingers
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Moist warm skin with increased perspiration
- Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
- Frequent bowel movements
- Reduced sex drive and/or erectile dysfunction
- Change in menstrual cycle
- Irritability and anxiety
What is Hashimoto’s disease?
Hashimoto’s disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid. It eventually damages the thyroid and impairs its ability to produce hormones, leading to hypothyroidism. Symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease include the following:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold
- Slowed heart rate
- Puffy, pale face
- Irregular periods or unusually heavy periods
- Pain in the joints and muscles
- Thinning and dry hair
- Difficulty getting pregnant
What are thyroid nodules?
Thyroid disorders can also come in the form of thyroid nodules. Thyroid nodules are lumps caused by abnormal growths of cells. The vast majority are benign, but some can become cancerous. Most cause no symptoms, but some can cause hyperthyroidism. Occasionally, the nodules cause pain in the neck, ear or jaw. Large nodules can sometimes press against the esophagus or windpipe and thus interfere with swallowing or breathing.
Thyroid nodules are extremely common. About half the people in the United States have developed at least one thyroid nodule by the age of 60.
What is papillary thyroid cancer?
There are several types of thyroid cancer. None of them are common, but papillary thyroid cancer is by far the most common type. About 70 to 80 percent of thyroid cancer cases are papillary thyroid cancer. It is slow-growing and often spreads to the neck’s lymph glands.
Thyroid cancer, in general, causes few or no symptoms. The patient grows a nodule or lump in their neck that typically does not cause any pain. If it does, the patient may feel pain in their neck, ear or jaw. A big nodule can press against the esophagus or windpipe and thus cause problems with swallowing or breathing. In rare cases, the cancer can invade the nerve controlling the vocal cords, and the patient will consequently develop a hoarse voice.
Thyroid disorders can come in many different forms. Thankfully, most thyroid disorders can be effectively treated, and we can find an appropriate and personalized treatment for you at the office of Daniel J. Leeman, MD. Contact us at our office in Austin today to schedule your first appointment and learn more about treatment for thyroid disorders.