Graves Disease: How The Thyroid Gland Works
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which is made up of glands that produce, store, and release hormones into the bloodstream so the hormones can reach the bodys cells. The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones:
It is important that T3 and T4 levels are neither too high nor too low. Two glands in the brain, the hypothalamus and the pituitary communicate to maintain T3 and T4 balance.
The hypothalamus produces TSH Releasing Hormone that signals the pituitary to tell the thyroid gland to produce more or less of T3 and T4 by either increasing or decreasing the release of a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone .
- When T3 and T4 levels are low in the blood, the pituitary gland releases more TSH to tell the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones.
- If T3 and T4 levels are high, the pituitary gland releases less TSH to the thyroid gland to slow production of these hormones.
Common Graves disease symptoms are:
What Is Postpartum Thyroiditis
Postpartum thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid after giving birth, affects 10% of women.3 It often goes undiagnosed because symptoms are much like the “baby blues” that may follow delivery. Women with postpartum thyroiditis may feel very tired and moody.
Postpartum thyroiditis typically happens in two phases, though not everyone with the condition goes through both phases:4
- The first phase starts 1 to 4 months after giving birth and typically last 1 to 2 months. In this phase, you may have signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism because the damaged thyroid leaks thyroid hormones out into the bloodstream.
- The second phase starts about 4 to 8 months after delivery and lasts 6 to 12 months. In this phase, you may have signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism because the thyroid has lost most of its hormones or because the immune attack is over and the thyroid may recover later.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Thyroid Nodules
Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms and are not cancerous.8 Some thyroid nodules make too much thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism. Sometimes, nodules grow so big that they cause problems with swallowing or breathing. About one-third of nodules are found by the patient, another third by the doctor, and the other third through an imaging test of the neck.
You can sometimes see or feel a thyroid nodule yourself. Stand in front of a mirror and raise your chin slightly. Look for a bump on either side of your windpipe below your Adam’s apple. If the bump moves up and down when you swallow, it may be a thyroid nodule. Ask your doctor to look at it.
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The Brain Sends Faulty Information To The Thyroid
The hypothalamus in your brain collects information about what happens inside as well as outside your body and then sends signals to make an appropriate response to the incoming stimuli. One of the signal pathways goes through the pituitary gland, which controls the thyroid. This pathway is called the HPA-axis, which is the wide signal route that goes between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal organs and is also a part of your bodys stress response. For the hypothalamus to send the appropriate signals, it needs to have good data on which to base a decision.
For your hypothalamus, its a situation similar to crossing the road at the same time as plugging your ears and closing your eyes. Under such circumstances, you prevent yourself from accessing important information, and its easy to see that its harder to make wise decisions based on so little data.
The most important way the brain receives information from inside the body upon which to base a good decision is the vagus nerve. The name vagus comes from the Latin word wanderer, and the vagus nerve is often called the wandering nerve. It is our largest nerve, which wanders all through our body and is connected to basically all organs, except the adrenal glands, where stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol are created.
How Are Thyroid Disorders Diagnosed
If you suspect your thyroid levels are either too high or too low, a doctor will conduct a physical exam and check your medical history. Theyll also check for physical symptoms such as dry skin and altered heart rate.
A blood test is the most accurate way to test for a thyroid condition. During this test, the quantity of thyroid-stimulating hormone indicates the function of your thyroid gland.
- Hypothyroidism: If your thyroid isnt producing enough hormones, your levels of TSH will be high.
- Hyperthyroidism: If your thyroid is producing too many hormones, your TSH levels will be low.
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Other Symptoms Caused By Hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism vary between individuals. The severity of your condition can also impact how your symptoms present. Early symptoms can be weight gain and tiredness. These are common regardless of age or sex.
The most common symptoms include:
- impaired memory
As your thyroid slows, more symptoms gradually appear. This is why hypothyroidism can go undiagnosed for years. If you experience more than one of the above symptoms and suspect you may have a thyroid issue, talk with a doctor or healthcare professional.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Congenital Hypothyroidism
Early signs of congenital hypothyroidism in a baby include:
- sleeping longer or more often than usual
- a large soft spot on the head
- large, swollen tongue
- cool, pale skin
- large belly with the navel sticking out
Without treatment, children with congenital hypothyroidism can develop permanent mental disabilities. They also may have a poor appetite and breathing problems.
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How Is Congenital Hypothyroidism Diagnosed
It’s very important to diagnose and treat hypothyroidism right away. So thyroid testing is done on all infants at birth as part of normal newborn screening.
A heel prick blood sample is tested to look for:
- low levels of T4 , a hormone made by the thyroid that helps control metabolism and growth
- high levels of TSH , made by the to stimulate the thyroid and increase its production of thyroid hormones
If the newborn screen test is abnormal, other blood test are done to be sure of the diagnosis. Sometimes doctors order imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or a thyroid scan, to get more information.
An Increased Amount Of Inflammation
With thyroid problems, its normal for inflammation levels in the body to be high. A term which is used for a large amount of inflammation is autoimmune disease where the immune system is overactive and attacks the body. Poor breathing is likely to be a major reason for the immune system to run amok.
The mitochondria, where oxygen and nourishment are converted to ATP-energy, heat, and carbon dioxide are also called our incinerators. These furnaces work precisely like regular fires. We can get the fires to decrease in strength by preventing oxygen from reaching the fire, and we can get the fire to increase in strength by using a bellows to make more oxygen reach the fire. If we were to get it into our heads to blast it with pure oxygen, it would gain an explosive course.
The mitochondria cant work without oxygen. A person who weighs 70kg holds approximately 1,6 liters of oxygen in his body. This is a very small amount compared to carbon dioxide, which we hold 120 liters of, in other words, 75 times as much. The reason for this is that too much oxygen is dangerous. We only take in a little oxygen at a time to ensure that the process for producing energy doesnt go overboard.
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Is Graves Disease The Same As Hyperthyroidism
Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to and is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, but theyre not the same thing. While all patients with Graves disease have hyperthyroidism, patients with hyperthyroidism may not necessarily have Graves disease .
In Graves disease, the body makes an antibody called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin , which causes the thyroid gland to make too much thyroid hormone . Graves disease runs in families and is more commonly found in women.
Thyroid Nodule Symptom # : A Sense That You Need To Swallow Something
- What to do about it?
Like all thyroid nodules that cause symptoms, these patients need a thyroid ultrasound to look at the size, location, and characteristics of the thyroid, how many nodules are present, and where they are located. Often thyroid glands that are big won’t have any ultrasound characteristics that are worrisome for cancer, so most of theses do not need a FNA thyroid needle biopsy. Thus big thyroids comprised of lots of nodules often don’t need a biopsy, which is in direct contrast to nodules that are single, or those that can be seen or felt . However, if a thyroid is big enough that it is causing the patient to be aware of it, and it is causing symptoms of something stuck in the throat, then surgery is probably necessary. Remember, thyroid surgery isn’t just for nodules that we think may be thyroid cancer, surgery is often necessary for benign, non-cancerous thyroid glands which are large and causing the patient symptoms. This situation is quite common. It is also important to know that large thyroid goiters, and nodules that are on the back side of the thyroid are often required to have a CAT scan, since these bigger thyroid glands are not seen as well with ultrasound. This is why you need a good endocrinologist who know which scan to order and which scans are not necessary. Remember, a large thyroid is called a goiter and we have an entire page on thyroid goiters.
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Sexual And Reproductive Concerns
Women with untreated hypothyroidism can have menstrual periods that happen less often, or last longer than normal. Bleeding may be heavier than usual, too.
Both men and women could become less fertile or lose some of their sex drive.
Dobs says women who have trouble getting pregnant should always have a thyroid test.
If youâre pregnant and have hypothyroidism thatâs not treated, your baby could be born too early or have a slightly lower IQ than normal. Even when you already take thyroid medicine, be sure to tell you doctor if youâre pregnant. You may need a higher dose of thyroid hormone. You might need to get tested more often, too.
What Else Should I Know
Your doctor will see your child regularly to make sure that the medicine is working and change the dose as your child grows. Be sure to go to all follow-up doctor visits.
Children with congenital hypothyroidism can sometimes develop hearing problems. If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing or speech development, talk to your doctor.
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Can Thyroid Disease Cause Problems Getting Pregnant
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can make it harder for you to get pregnant. This is because problems with the thyroid hormone can upset the balance of the hormones that cause ovulation. Hypothyroidism can also cause your body to make more prolactin, the hormone that tells your body to make breastmilk. Too much prolactin can prevent ovulation.
Thyroid problems can also affect the menstrual cycle. Your periods may be heavier or irregular, or you may not have any periods at all for several months or longer .
Thyroid Nodule Symptom # : Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism Symptoms Of Too Much Thyroid Hormone
Here is the list of the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
- What to do about it? – The only way to tell if a thyroid nodule is causing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism is to get a thyroid ultrasound to see the location of the thyroid nodule and it’s size, and then to get a radioactive thyroid scan to see if this nodule is “hot” and thereby producing too much thyroid hormone. If it is determined that the hyperthyroidism is caused by a hot nodule, then discuss with your surgeon the removal of the nodule only. That is the operation we would do, and what we would want done on ourselves! The goal should always be to leave as much normal thyroid behind. Trust us, you want to keep your normal thyroid.
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How Is Hyperthyroidism Treated
Your doctor’s choice of treatment will depend on your symptoms and the cause of your hyperthyroidism. Treatments include:
- Antithyroid medicines block your thyroid from making new thyroid hormone. These drugs do not cause lasting damage to the thyroid.
- Beta-blockers block the effects of thyroid hormone on your body. These medicines can be helpful in slowing your heart rate and treating other symptoms until one of the other forms of treatment can take effect. Beta-blockers do not reduce the amount of thyroid hormones that are made.
Graves Disease: Foods To Eat
- Berries: Eat berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. They are full of antioxidants and help keep your immune system strong.
- Dairy Products: Get plenty of calcium from dairy foods, such as cheese, milk, and yogurt.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, are vegetables that can help reduce the amount of thyroid hormone your thyroid gland produces.
- Foods Containing Vitamin D: Such as salmon, eggs and mushrooms can help prevent osteoporosis, a complication that can occur if Graves disease goes untreated. Vitamin D and calcium keep the bones strong.
- Protein: Chicken, turkey, beans, and nuts are quality sources of protein, an essential nutrient that helps build muscle.
- Fats: Omega-3 fatty acids are in salmon, olive oil, and walnuts. They keep your body healthy and strong.
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Symptoms Of Thyroid Nodules: The Complete List
Each of these is discussed in detail below with “what to do about it” recommendations.
As you read about these different thyroid nodule symptoms below, we will provide links to other parts of the website that will be important to read next. Most thyroid nodules don’t need a biopsy, however, thyroid nodules that have symptoms almost always will need scans and most will need a thyroid biopsy. We will help you understand this. We are also developing a Thyroid Nodule App for smart phones which will help you diagnose your thyroid nodule and tell you what you should be doing about it. Look for it in the App Store about March, 2017!
Almost all thyroid nodules that cause symptoms will require surgery.
Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer
The most common early sign of thyroid cancer is an unusual lump, nodule or swelling in the neck. If you notice a new or growing lump, you should see your doctor, who can run additional tests to identify the cause and determine if it is a tumor. Most nodules on the thyroid are usually benign, but it is important to have any unusual growths examined by a health care professional.
Other early warning signs of thyroid cancer include:
- Swollen glands in the neck
- A cough that persists and is not caused by a cold
Other possible symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
Neck pain: In many cases, neck pain starts in the front. In some cases, the neck pain may extend all the way to the ears.
Voice changes: Experiencing hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away could be a sign of thyroid cancer.
Breathing problems: Sometimes thyroid cancer patients say it feels like they are breathing through a straw. This breathing difficulty is often a symptom of the disease.
Trouble swallowing: A growth or nodule on the thyroid gland may interfere with swallowing.
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Graves Disease: Testing Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies Level
Since Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder, this blood test may be recommended. TPO measures the level of thyroid peroxidase antibodies. If you have those antibodies in your blood, it suggests that the immune system has attacked the thyroid. However, about 5-10% of healthy people test positive for TPO antibodies, so the presence of these antibodies doesnt always indicate that you have an autoimmune disorder.
Tip : Consider A Selenium Supplement
Selenium is a trace mineral your body requires to activate thyroid hormone. Studies have linked low selenium levels with increased risks for chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, Graves disease, and goiter.
You can increase your selenium levels by increasing your intake of meat, seafood, or whole grains. But some people may require a supplement to enhance selenium levels. Talk with your doctor about what may help.
Consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor if you experience the following symptoms as they could be related to your thyroid:
- feeling a nodule or lump on either side of your larynx
- experiencing weight loss or gain that you cant explain by changes in diet or activity level
- constantly feeling very hot or very cold
- experiencing mood changes, such as depression, anxiety, or nervousness
- feeling a sense of significant fatigue
These symptoms can all indicate a potential thyroid concern and warrant a trip to your doctor.
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