The Thyroid, Part Two

The Thyroid, Part Two

Last week we discussed how the thyroid works, how it fits into the endocrine system and the symptoms created by thyroid problems. In this week's newsletter, we will look at the two most common types of thyroid problems. In Part 3 next week, we will look at the tests used and the recommended treatments for thyroid problems.

THYROID-RELATED CONDITIONS

Endocrinologists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat diseases that affect your glands-including the hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid glands. In preparing this series of articles, we have consulted several publications by endocrinologists and obtained some very useful information from the website of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists ("AACE"). Much of the following information is taken from that website.

Last week we discussed the relationship between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the thyroid. All three of these glands need to work together if the thyroid is to function properly. However, many of the problems with our thyroid glands are now thought to be attributable to malfunctions in the body's own immune system.

Immune System

The purpose of the body's immune system is to protect the body against any type of organism (like bacteria or viruses for example) that it believes are attacking the body. The attacking organisms are called antigens. When the immune system senses the presence of antigens, it creates antibodies--proteins made from lymphocytes (types of white blood cells). These antibodies are not "one-size-fits-all" but are specially designed to attack specific antigens. Unless a person dies from the disease, the antibodies will eventually conquer the invader and your body will recover. In most of us, the body stores some of these antibodies, along with the knowledge of how to create more antibodies if needed.

It is the body's storage of these antibodies that were successful in attacking a specific antigen that explains why the body often has an immunity to contracting a disease more than once. For example, if you had measles as a child and were later exposed to the same strain of measles, the antibodies that were developed to attack the measles antigen are still in the body and will prevent the antigen from giving you measles a second time. However, since this is an antibody only for measles, you can contract another childhood disease like the chicken pox or the mumps.

This is why vaccines work. The vaccine contains a small amount of the antigen in a form that will not create the disease but will cause the immune system to develop an antibody to the disease. Then if you are exposed to the disease, the immune system already has some antibodies and knows how to make more. Therefore, you should not become sick from this disease.

Autoimmune Disease

An autoimmune disorder is when your body's immune system mistakenly determines that normal parts of your body are really foreign antigens. Your immune system then attacks these parts of the body with the same intensity that it attacks foreign antigens. The antibodies the body uses to attack the organs of the body are often very effective. Many of the diseases that affect the thyroid are autoimmune disorders.

HYPERTHYROIDISM

According to the Encarta Dictionary, in the way it is used here, hyper is a prefix that means "over, above, beyond, excessive, unusually high." The definition of "ism" when used as a suffix that applies here is "unusual or unhealthy state." Hyperthyroidism means the thyroid is in an unhealthy state caused by the excessive activity of the thyroid.

Hyperthyroidism is believed to occur when excessive amounts of the thyroid hormones are being produced by the thyroid. While there is wide disagreement about how thyroid problems are diagnosed, it is believed that hyperthyroidism is found in many Americans and is up to ten times more often found in women than men.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

AACE has set forth some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism:

  • Fast heart rate, often more than 100 beats per minute
  • Nervousness, anxiety or an irritable and quarrelsome feeling
  • Weight loss, despite eating the same amount or even more than usual
  • Intolerance of warm temperatures and increased likelihood to perspire
  • Loss of scalp hair
  • Muscle weakness, especially of the upper arms and thighs
  • Loose and frequent bowel movements
  • Change in menstrual pattern
  • Protrusion of the eyes, with or without double vision
  • Accelerated loss of calcium from bones, which increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures

What Are the Causes of Hyperthyroidism?

When hyperthyroidism develops, a goiter (an enlargement of the gland that often can be seen as a swelling on the front of the neck) is usually but not always present. Here are some of the types of conditions that lead to hyperthyroidism.

Graves' Disease

This is an autoimmune disorder where the body's own antibodies are creating problems in the thyroid that cause it to create more thyroid hormones than are needed.

Toxic Multinodular Goiter

Multiple nodules (small growths of tissue and cells) grow in the thyroid. The nodules cause the thyroid to produce excessive thyroid hormones.

Postpartum (after birth) Thyroiditis

The appropriate definition in the Encarta Dictionary for the suffix "itis" is " inflammation disease." Thyroiditis would be an inflammation disease of the thyroid. While the cause is not known, it is estimated that between five and ten percent of women develop mild to moderate hyperthyroidism within several months of giving birth, and then many of these women tend to develop hypothyroidism.

Overmedication With Thyroid Hormone

Patients who receive excessive thyroxine (T4) replacement treatment can develop hyperthyroidism.

HYPOTHYROIDISM

According to the Encarta Dictionary, when used as a prefix, the meaning of "hypo" as used here is "unusually low." "Ism" as used here as a suffix means "unhealthy state." Hypothyroidism thus means that the thyroid is unhealthy because it is not producing enough thyroid hormones.

Hypothyroid Symptoms

According to AACE, the following are some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain from fluid retention
  • Dry skin and cold intolerance
  • Yellow skin
  • Coarseness or loss of hair
  • Hoarseness
  • Ataxia (loss of muscle coordination)
  • Constipation
  • Memory and mental impairment
  • Decreased concentration
  • Depression
  • Irregular or heavy menses and infertility
  • Myalgias (muscle pain)
  • Hyperlipidemia (an excessive level of fats or lipids in the blood)
  • Bradycardia (slow heart beats)
  • Hypothermia (below normal body temperature)
    • What Are The Causes of Hypothyroidism?

      There is one specific disease and a number of conditions that often lead to hypothyroidism.

      Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

      Hashimoto's thyroiditis is caused by an autoimmune disorder. In this disease the inflammation causes the loss of thyroid cells which leads to a lower amount of thyroid hormones being produced.

      Pregnancy

      Hypothyroidism develops frequently during pregnancies. The reason is not clear, but it is a condition that many endocrinologists strongly recommend be tested for because this condition is thought to be the cause of pregnancy problems and can harm the fetus.

      Postpartum Thyroiditis

      As we state above, postpartum thyroiditis often leads to hypothyroidism.

      Diabetes Mellitus

      Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to help the body properly utilize glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is produced by the pancreas gland, one of the important glands in the endocrine system.

      Diabetes Mellitus is a disease caused by the buildup of glucose because the body's insulin is not properly handling glucose. It is estimated that ten percent of the people with diabetes mellitus either have or will develop hypothyroidism.

      Infertility and Menstrual Problems

      Endocrinologists believe that people suffering from infertility or menstrual problems often have hypothyroidism.

      Lithium Therapy

      Many people taking lithium develop hypothyroidism.

      Depression

      Increasingly, it is being determined that people with depression may have hypothyroidism.

      CONCLUSION

      In Part 3, we will discuss why it is important that all of us who are experiencing any of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism should be tested for these conditions. However, it is very important that we are tested by a medical doctor who will look at more than the common TSH blood panel that is so often used. This test, by itself, is not always a reliable way of detecting thyroid problems.

      As we have said before, too many doctors now rely on the "radio method" when patients come in with various ailments. The "radio method" means that when you hear a knocking sound from the engine you simply turn up the volume of the radio so you no longer hear the knocking. Of course, unhandled, the knocking will likely lead to being stranded on the side of the road.

      In the same manner, doctors simply try to hide symptoms by writing prescriptions. By not actually diagnosing the underlying problem, patients seeing these doctors not only have the actual condition worsen, but also are exposed to terrible side effects from most of the unnecessary drugs they are given.

      Demanding that our medical professionals look for the real cause of our problems rather than just write a prescription is the only way that we can be sure that we are being actually helped. This is why it is so important that each of us become informed. Just like the person who really understands cars will not normally be "taken" by a car mechanic, the patient that understands more about the possible causes of their ailments will likely not fall for a "radio method" diagnosis.

      At Novus Medical Detox Center we specialize in helping people safely and more comfortably withdraw from OxyContin, methadone, Vicodin, Pecocet, Xanax or antidepressants. Whether a person is addicted or dependent, we can help. If you know of anyone who can use our help in getting free from an addiction or dependence, please give Novus a call.

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