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Thyroid Diseases Explained: Types, Diagnosis, Treatment & More


Thyroid disease is a medical problem that restricts your thyroid gland from producing the appropriate amount of hormones. Correctly, your thyroid produces the hormones necessary to keep your body operating normally. These thyroid hormones control how your body uses your energy. If you are feeling fatigued or there are some noticeable changes in your skin or hair then the doctor may conduct a physical exam and order blood tests to detect the functioning of the thyroid.

Post diagnosis, thyroid treatment depends on the type of thyroid and its underlying cause.

Dr. Abhay Ahluwalia, explains the types of thyroids, their symptoms, their causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Types of Thyroid Disorders

When the thyroid is unable to operate properly—either by releasing too much or not enough T4 hormone—thyroid illness develops. A lump or nodule may also form on your thyroid. Three primary thyroid conditions exist:

  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Thyroid Cancer

Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough T4 hormones. An underactive thyroid may occur because the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus, or the thyroid itself is not working properly. Nearly five per cent of the population has an underactive thyroid. More women than men suffer from the condition. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:

When the thyroid gland does not create enough Thyroxine (T4) hormone, hypothyroidism develops. Due to hypothyroidism, the pituitary, the hypothalamus, or the thyroid itself may not be functioning properly. The illness affects more women than men. Below are the symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid.

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland generates more thyroid hormones than the body requires. A malfunctioning brain, pituitary gland, or thyroid itself may produce an overactive thyroid. The cases of overactivity of the thyroid are not very common among people. Similar to an underactive thyroid, the disorder affects more women than men.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:

Thyroid Cancer

When thyroid cells undergo changes and expand, malignant cells create nodules or growths, which is how thyroid cancer develops. These malignant nodules have the potential to migrate into the circulation, lymph nodes, and adjacent tissues if untreated. Though thyroid cancer is rare. However, over the years the cases of thyroid cancer have increased. There are four different kinds of thyroid cancer, papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer and anaplastic thyroid cancer.


As per the symptoms, the patient visits the doctor to find the root cause of the disease. Based on the symptoms, the doctor is likely to perform a physical examination or diagnosis to assess and understand whether it is hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Below are some tests done for the right analysis.

  • Thyroid scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Thyroid biopsy
  • Imaging tests


Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)

Levothyroxine (Synthroid®), a synthetic (man-made) thyroid hormone, is typically given to patients with hypothyroidism as this will help to restore the body’s hormone levels and will also relieve the symptoms. Periodically, your blood will be tested to make sure the medication given is successfully treating your hypothyroidism. The majority of patients with hypothyroidism require lifelong replacement thyroid hormone therapy.

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)

The treatment for patients with overactive thyroid depends on how severe the symptoms are and what the underlying cause is. You and your doctor will discuss a few options as per each individual’s case. Medications like antithyroid medication, radioactive iodine, Beta-blockers and thyroidectomy (surgery).

Anti-Thyroid Medication

Within six to twelve weeks of taking the medicine, symptoms normally start to go away, although therapy is routinely continued for at least a year. There are some side effects that are associated with the medicine, these antithyroid drugs may harm your liver and increase your susceptibility to infection and some people have allergic reactions to these drugs.

Radioactive Iodine

Many patients will require daily synthetic thyroid hormone to restore appropriate hormone levels in the body because radioactive iodine normally causes the thyroid to become underactive. Long-term use of radioactive iodine has demonstrated its safety.


Beta-blockers are used to lower high blood pressure. Although they do not directly treat the thyroid, beta blockers can help slow a fast heartbeat and avoid heart palpitations. In order to feel better until the thyroid is working more properly, patients are given beta blockers with anti-thyroid medicine and radioactive iodine. Beta-blockers are generally well tolerated by patients, however, some may have headaches, nausea, dizziness, or upset stomach.

Surgery (Thyroidectomy)

A thyroidectomy, or surgical removal of the thyroid, is a treatment option for people who cannot use radioactive iodine or take antithyroid medication. The average surgery takes two to two and a half hours and after spending some time under observation, patients either go home that day or the following day. Although complications from thyroid surgery are uncommon, there is always a danger.

Thyroid Cancer

For thyroid cancer, surgery is the only treatment option. To remove the cancer cells, radioactive iodine therapy is employed. This applies to any remaining healthy tissue as well as any malignant cells. The doctor may remove neck lymph nodes for testing depending on the stage of the malignancy. Post-surgery, most patients may and will require daily synthetic thyroid hormone therapy for the rest of their lives. Your doctor and you will discuss your best surgical option based on the type of cancer you have and to what extent it has spread.


Is there a higher risk of developing thyroid disease if I have diabetes?

There have been several studies that indicate a relationship between thyroid and diabetes. Patients with thyroid disorder do have an increased risk of diabetes. Therefore, it is important to take care of the sugar levels.

Can thyroid issues make me lose my hair?

Yes, thyroid issues i.e. severe hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can result in loss of hair. Once the treatment of thyroid starts it can take several months for the hair to grow back as it was before thyroid.

How long after my thyroid is removed will my tiredness go away?

Feeling fatigued or tired goes away on its own with time. Doctors suggest taking all recommended medications on time and eating a diet that is healthy and full of nutrients.

Can I check my thyroid at home?

Yes, there are several at-home thyroid test kits that can help diagnose thyroid disease.

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