BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Thyroid disease affects approximately 200 million people worldwide and, if is left undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause conditions such depression, tremors, muscle weakness, and constant fatigue.
Tonight on Health Alert we are going to discuss the thyroid as it is Thyroid Awareness Month. Joining us is Dr. Gayatri Jaiswal, endocrinologist at UHC.
Question: Tell us why this gland is so instrumental in the human body?
Answer: The thyroid is a small gland located in the base of your neck that is part of the endocrine system. This tiny gland has a big job and nobody disputes that! The gland is responsible for various functions including the metabolism, regulating body temperature, cognitive function, digestion, and much more. To make it easy, the thyroid affects the entire body and when it is not working properly you will definitely feel the effects.
Question: What happens when the thyroid is not working properly?
Answer: Many people are somewhat familiar with the condition known as hypothyroidism; this typically describes the condition where the thyroid gland is in a sub-optimal state and is not producing enough of the thyroid hormones necessary for the body to function. While this condition counts for many people that are suffering from thyroid dysfunction, there are various other conditions, as well. These conditions include hyperthyroidism (thyroid gland in an over-active state), Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune diseases), goiter (thyroid enlargement), thyroid nodules (growths on the thyroid gland that can be caused by another condition, i.e. Hashimoto’s), and thyroid cancer.
Question: What are some of the symptoms or warning signs that something is wrong?
Answer: The symptoms, of course, vary depending on the condition, but there are many warning signs that something is not right. There are over 300 symptoms that indicate thyroid dysfunction, the most common ones being,
-Cold hands/feet (hypothyroidism)
-Dry skin (hypothyroidism)
-Unexplained weight gain (hypothyroidism)
-Unexplained weight loss (hyperthyroidism)
-Loose bowels/diarrhea (hyperthyroidism)
-Vision issues (Graves’ disease)
-Difficulty swallowing (goiter/thyroid nodules)
-And much, much more!
Question: What tests are used to find a thyroid problem?
Answer: Thyroid problems can be diagnosed with symptoms and simple blood tests.
Blood tests to measure TSH, T4, T3 and Free T4 are readily available and widely used. Tests to evaluate thyroid function include the following:
The best way to initially test thyroid function is to measure the TSH level in a blood sample. A high TSH level indicates that the thyroid gland is failing like in primary hypothyroidism
The opposite situation, in which the TSH level is low, usually indicates that the person is producing too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism).
Occasionally, a low TSH may result from an abnormality in the pituitary gland
Combining the TSH test with the FT4 helps determine further cause and extent of Thyroid dysfunction .
The finding of an elevated TSH and low FT4 indicates primary hypothyroidism due to disease in the thyroid gland.
A low TSH and low FT4 indicates hypothyroidism due to a problem involving the pituitary gland.
A low TSH with an elevated FT4 or is found in individuals who have hyperthyroidism.
T3 tests are often useful to diagnosis hyperthyroidism or to determine the severity of the hyperthyroidism. Patients who are hyperthyroid will have an elevated T3 level.
T3 testing rarely is helpful in the hypothyroid patient, since it is the last test to become abnormal.
THYROID ANTIBODY TESTS
The immune system of the body normally protects us from foreign invaders with substances called antibodies produced by blood cells known as lymphocytes.
In many patients with thyroid problems , lymphocytes make antibodies against their thyroid that either stimulate or damage the gland.
Two common antibodies that cause thyroid problems are : thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin.
Measuring levels of thyroid antibodies may help diagnose the cause of the thyroid problems.