Thyroid Diseases

Common Thyroid Conditions & Diseases

This section provides a brief description of some thyroid conditions and diseases which frequently occur.

Hypothyroidism

If your thyroid is underactive, it produces too little thyroid hormone which results in a condition called hypothyroidism. People with hypothyroidism use energy more slowly and their metabolism also slows down.

Key symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Fatigue, drowsiness and / or weakness
  • Cold intolerance (not being able to tolerate the cold like those around you)
  • Impaired memory
  • Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight (despite sensible diet and exercise)
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Abnormal menstrual periods and / or fertility problems
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Thin and brittle hair or fingernails and / or dry flaky skin

Ref.: 1, 2

Hyperthyroidism

If your thyroid is overactive, it releases too much thyroid hormone into the blood stream, resulting in a condition called hyperthyroidism. People with this condition have a much faster metabolism.

Key symptoms of hyperthyroidism:

  • Weight loss (even when eating normally)
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Very fast heart rate (often more than 100 beats per minute)
  • Prominent, staring eyes (typical for Graves’ disease)
  • Trembling hands
  • Feeling very weak
  • Hair loss
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Fast growing fingernails
  • Thin and very smooth skin
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Abnormal menstrual periods

Ref.: 3

Swelling (Thyroid Enlargement)

The medical term “goiter” stands for an enlarged thyroid. There are numerous various types of thyroid enlargement and therefore numerous descriptive terms. For instance, a goiter can occur in association with nodules or even in a normally-functioning thyroid. In this context, a differentiation is made between the occurrence of a single nodule and several nodules. Depending on the level of thyroid function (normal function, under- or overproduction of thyroid hormone), there are additional terms for a goiter. The most typical, since it is most common and a generalized term for numerous types, is the harmless form of thyroid enlargement (the medical term for this is “benign” or “bland” goiter), accompanied by nodule formation.

Thyroid nodules are focal mutations within the thyroid which can occur individually, as so-called “solitary” nodules, or as several (multiple) nodules.

Risk Factors:

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Smoking
  • High nitrate exposure
  • Familial predisposition
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy, puberty or menopause
  • Thyroid inflammation
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Basedow’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (auto-immune disorders affecting the thyroid)
  • Certain medications (e.g. thyreostatics, lithium)

Ref.: 5-15

Iodine Deficiency

Iodine is vital for the production of thyroid hormones, and as your body does not produce iodine, it must be consumed as part of a healthy diet. Iodine can commonly be found in sea fish, seafood, bread, cheese, cow’s milk, eggs, yogurt and seaweed.

The shortage of iodine in the diet is the worldwide number one cause of an enlarged thyroid (commonly referred to as “goiter”), as well as for all types of thyroid nodules. In the event of an iodine deficiency, the thyroid attempts to close the supply gap by growing. In addition, the enlarged thyroid cells can lead to nodule formation in the tissue.

Pregnancy: Even a mild iodine shortage during pregnancy can have effects on the delivery and development of a baby, including hypothyroidism. Therefore it is recommended that all pregnant and breast feeding women should take a nutritional supplement containing iodine every day. Women of childbearing age should have an average iodine intake of 150 micrograms per day, which should be increased to approximately 250 micrograms during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Ref.: 16, 17

A List of Medical References

Reference list (click to expand)

  1. American Thyroid Association. ATA Hypothyroidism Booklet. Falls Church. VA2003
  2. Roberts CG, Ladenson PW. Hyopthyroidism. Lancet. 2004:363:793-803
  3. American Thyroid Association. Hyperthyroidism. 2005, https://www.thyroid.org/wp-content/uploads/patients/brochures/Hypothyroidism_web_booklet.pdf, Accessed December 2009
  4. Poppe K, Velkeniers B, Glinoer D; Medscape. The role of thyroid autoimmunity in fertility and pregnancy. Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2008;4:394-405
  5. Sharma A. et al.: Benign cervical multi-nodular goiter presenting with acute airway obstruction: a case report. Journal of Medical Case Reports 2010, 4:258 (2010)
  6. Skugor M., Wilder J.B.: Thyroid Disorders: A Cleveland Clinic Guide. Cleveland Clinic Press (2006)
  7. McDougall I.R.: Management of Thyroid Cancer and Related Nodular Disease. Springer; 1st Edition (2005)
  8. McNeill A. Tobacco use and effects on health. In: European Commission (Eds.): Tobacco or health in the European Union – Past, present and future. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, p 25-68. Luxembourg, 2004.
  9. Derwahl K. M., Duntas L.H., Butz S.: The Thyroid and Cardiovascular Risk: Merck European Thyroid Symposium, Berlin, 10-13 June, 2004. Thieme; 1 edition (2005)
  10. van Maanen J.M.S. et al.: Consumption of drinking water with high nitrate levels causes hypertrophy of the thyroid. Toxicology Letters, Volume 27, Issues 1-3, June 1994,Pages 365-374. URL doi:10.1016/0378-4274(94)90050-7 (Accessed October 2010)
  11. Böttcher I et al.: The genetics of eurhyroid familial goiter. Trend in Endocrinology ans Metabolism, Volume 16, Issue 7, September 2005, pp 314-319
    v Shils M. E. et al.: Modern nutrition in health and diseases. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; Tenth edition (2005)
  12. Greenspan, F.S., Gardener, D.G.: Basic and Clinical Endocrinoloy. McGraw-Hill Medical, 7. edition (2003)
  13. Terris D.J., Gourin C.G.: Thyroid and Parathyoid Diseases: Medical and Surgical Treatment. Thieme; 1 edition (2008)
  14. Aufderheide A.C., Rodriguez-Martin C.: The Cambridge encyclopedia of human paleopathology. Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (1998)
  15. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Information for Patients. 2005. URL www.aace.com/pub/thyroidbrochures/pdfs/Hashimoto.pdf (Accessed October 2010)
  16. American Thyroid Association. Iodine Deficiency http://www.thyroid.org/patients/patient_brochures/iodine_deficiency.html Accessed December 2009
  17. Management of Thyroid Dysfunction during Pregnancy and Postpartum: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. 2007