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The endocrine glands of a human body play a decently impressive role in managing the body functions and activity. Cumulatively connected by an extraordinary system of nerve impulses and feedback mechanisms, the hormones secreted by these glands inter-regulate and manage the functions of the body.
Among the various endocrine glands scattered all over the human anatomy, the Thyroid gland is a small notorious gland in the neck region of the body that shows up with some abnormality for a patient in the clinics now and then.
The Thyroid Gland is concerned with the secretion of the Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4 hormones), which are meant to have their effect on almost every cell in the body, either directly or indirectly. Basic functions of the Thyroid Hormone include:
- Regulating the Basal Metabolic Rate, or the energy produced in the body in the form of heat as the food is digested by the body
- Manages the synthesis of proteins in the body
- Takes care of growth and development of bones in the body, while acting along with the Growth Hormone
- Looks after the body metabolism of fat, carbohydrates and proteins; to check their efficient usage by the human body cells to produce energy
Also, it affects the metabolism of Vitamins in the body.
As a whole, the Thyroid Gland performs various notable functions for the general growth and development of the body. The activity of the hormone secretion mechanism by the gland is coordinated by an indirect feedback mechanism in the body through other glands in the brain as shown here:
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The Condition at Hand
The most commonly occurring abnormality related to the gland is called Hypothyroidism. In detail, this endocrine abnormality associated with this term involves the reduction in either the production or in the secretion of the Thyroid Hormones from the gland. The occurrence of the condition had been noted more in women than in men. Also, the incidence had been recorded to increase with advancing age.
In order to count and then understand the prime causes behind the occurrence of the condition, taking a closer look at the conventional types of the condition would be an easier approach.
Traditional Types Of The Disease (based on the causative organ of the condition)
- Primary: The condition is so-called when the Thyroid Gland itself is in a compromised state, and is unable to either produce or release the adequate amount of the Thyroid hormones into the body.
- Secondary: This condition occurs when there is a lack of stimulation from the Pituitary Gland (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) for the Thyroid Gland to secrete the hormones into the body.
- Tertiary: Such a condition exhibits itself when the initial stimulation from the Hypothalamus (Thyrotropin Stimulating Hormone) is affected. Respectively, due to the absence of stimulation, the secretions from the Pituitary Gland and the Thyroid Gland are crippled, thus causing the disease.
Among the above mentioned causes, the first type makes up for most of the cases; while the latter two comprises of around only 10 – 15 % of the incidences for the condition.
The Secondary and Tertiary types predominantly result from the injuries to the parts of the brain either caused by medications, surgery, radiotherapy, or trauma thus damaging the glands and affecting their activity over the thyroid gland.
- Next, coming to the clinical causes of the condition, they may be listed as done here:
- Iodine deficiency, is the most common cause.
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an inherited auto-immune disease causing inflammation of the thyroid gland.
- Medications, usually the ones that are used to treat the complimentary abnormality of the gland:
- (characterized by the over activity of Thyroid Gland and excessive secretion of the Thyroid Hormones in the body). Injury to Thyroid Gland; due to either surgery or radioactive iodine, possibly after the treatment procedure is conducted.
- Pregnancy is a common cause of development of the condition in females after the infant is delivered. Mostly, the condition is reversible, and the thyroid function is normalized in few months; but it may also happen otherwise in some cases.
- Radiation therapy performed previously to treat the cancers of head and neck region can create such an effect on the thyroid gland.
- Stress, significant factor for hormonal imbalances in the body might lead to Thyroid Gland dysfunction.
- Congenital association, extremely rare condition.
In the initial stage, the condition does not express itself clinically and thus no signs or symptoms might be felt by the patient or the clinician at first. Once the condition is evident, the common symptoms associated with an under active Thyroid gland may be separately distinguished as early and late symptoms.
Early Signs and Symptoms:
- Easy fatigue
- Intolerance to cold temperatures
- Weight gain
- Dryness of skin
- Bradycardia (slower hear rate)
- Cramping of the muscles with decreased tone and cramping
- Depression with lack of concentration
- Coarser hair texture
- Increase in the Serum Cholesterol levels
Late Signs and Symptoms:
- Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
- Evident depression (thyroid related)
- Puffy eyes
- Pale dry facial skin
- Forgetfulness or loss of memory
- Disturbed menstruation and infertility, in females
- Lowering of body temperature
- Loss of libido (sexual drive), in males
- Slow or impaired responsiveness
- Myxedema, fatal if severe
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With a brief history of detailed symptoms felt by the patient, a tentative diagnosis can be made for the condition. However, blood sample testing is an essential laboratory investigation to be performed before reaching a confirmatory diagnosis. Following are the sample test possibilities:
- Initially, no abnormality might be detected in the blood levels of the concerned hormones in the blood, as the condition might still be at a Sub-clinical stage.
- In case of full-blown symptoms the blood levels of Thyroid Hormones (T3, T4) might be reduced; while the blood level of TSH will be raised.
- On the contrary, in Secondary or Tertiary cases the blood levels of thyroid hormones as well as TSH will be reduced, due to the defect being either in Pituitary Gland or Hypothalamus.
- Consequently, to distinguish the origin of the defect, a special TRH test can be conducted to determine the source of disturbance to the hormonal activity.
Apart from the above mentioned investigations, some other tests and screenings might be required in certain cases, to point out the exact causative factor of the condition.
- Antithyroid Antibodies, to rule out the auto-immune disease
- Serum Cholesterol level
- Measurement of Basal body Temperature
Latest Disease Management Trends
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