Thyroid Disorder (Head & Neck)

What is Thyroid Disorder?

The thyroid is a gland located in the front of the neck. This gland produces two hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which regulate various vital metabolic processes including growth and energy consumption. The thyroid can become malfunction and overactive that leads to hyperthyroidism, or underactive that leads to hypothyroidism. Women are more prone to thyroid disorders than men.

There are various causes of hyperthyroidism:

  • The most common cause is Graves’ disease. For people with Graves’ disease, the immune system produces antibodies which stimulate the uncontrollable secretion of thyroxine. Graves’ disease leads to eye irritation and swelling, and vision problems. The causes of Graves’ disease are not yet known, but genetics might be a factor.
  • Overactive thyroid can be caused by hyperactive thyroid nodules which secrete too much thyroxine. Inflammation of the thyroid gland, known as thyroiditis, can also lead to hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Anxiety, nervousness and irritability
  • Bulging eyes
  • Changes in menstruation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fast heart rate and palpitations
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Muscle weakness and trembling
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Changes in menstruation
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and sluggishness
  • Fragile fingernails and hair
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Pale skin and puffy face
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Slow heart rate
  • Weight gain

Treatment of hyperthyroidism depends on the patient’s age, physical status,  cause and severity of conditions. Treatment options include:

  • Anti-Thyroid Medicine - the first-line treatment of hyperthyroidism to block the secretion of thyroid hormones, and therefore gradually alleviate symptoms
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy - aims at regulating thyroid hormone levels by using a synthetic thyroid hormone pill
  • Radioactive Iodine Treatment - is used if the response to anti-thyroid medications is not good. Radioactive iodine is administered orally to reduce the thyroid activity significantly, and even permanently
  • Surgical Removal of the thyroid gland - this is a last-resort option and patient may need to take life-long medication to maintain normal thyroid hormone levels
  • Eye problems such as bulging eyes and blurry vision (caused by Graves’ disease)
  • Fever and hallucinations
  • Irregular heart rhythm and heart failure
  • Osteoporosis (bone condition characterised by weak and brittle bones)

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