Condition: Thyroid disorders

Thyroid disorders disrupt the function of the thyroid gland that sits at the front of the neck and is responsible for producing metabolism-controlling hormones.

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What are thyroid disorders?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits in the front neck. It’s responsible for secreting two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), that are critical for the normal function of cells in the body. Thyroid disorders are conditions that cause the thyroid gland to either under or overproduce hormones, which can result in a number of symptoms and health complications.

The most common thyroid disorders are:

  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) – the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough T4. This is the most common thyroid disorder
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) – the thyroid gland produces too much T4
  • Thyroiditis – the thyroid gland becomes swollen and inflamed causing an increase or decrease in hormone production
  • Thyroid nodules – these are lumps of overgrown tissue that develop on the thyroid gland
  • Goitre – this is a non-cancerous lump in the front of the neck, caused by swelling of the thyroid gland
  • Thyroid cancer – it’s rare, but a lump in the thyroid can be cancerous. This type of cancer is highly treatable

What causes thyroid disorders?

Thyroid disorders can be caused by a number of different things, but the most common cause is autoimmune thyroid disease. This is where the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid cells as though they were a threat, causing the thyroid gland to become underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism).

Other causes of thyroid problems include:

  • Thyroid treatment or surgery – in some cases, thyroid gland or neck treatment can cause thyroiditis or hypothyroidism
  • Pregnancy – hyperthyroidism can be brought on by pregnancy, and ‘postpartum’ thyroiditis may occur after giving birth
  • Medication – some medicines can cause hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, or a goitre
  • Infections – viral and bacterial infections can cause thyroiditis
  • Thyroid nodules – a thyroid disorder in itself, thyroid nodules can lead to hyperthyroidism
  • Pituitary gland problems – it’s rare, but problems with the pituitary gland can cause hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
  • Iodine – too much iodine intake from diet or medications can increase the risk of hyperthyroidism, while iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism, nodules or a goitre
  • Changes in DNA - mutations in thyroid cells can cause them to grow uncontrollably resulting in thyroid cancer 

What are the symptoms of thyroid disorders?

The symptoms of thyroid disorders vary depending on the condition:

  • Hypothyroidism – tiredness, weight gain, feeling low, brain fog, intolerance of the cold, constipation, muscle aches and weakness, brittle hair and nails, and facial puffiness
  • Hyperthyroidism – hyperactivity, palpitations, fatigue, insomnia, excess sweating, mood changes, sensitivity to heat, low libido and weight loss
  • Thyroiditis – painful swelling of the thyroid gland and symptoms of either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism that may interchange
  • Thyroid nodules – feeling or seeing a lump in the neck, difficulty swallowing and symptoms of hyperthyroidism
  • Goitre – a tight throat, coughing, hoarseness, trouble swallowing, difficulty breathing, snoring and symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
  • Thyroid cancer – a lump at the front of the neck, pain in the neck, ear or jaw, difficulty swallowing or breathing, a tickly throat, hoarseness or voice changes, and swollen glands in the neck

Simple blood tests can be done to measure hormone levels and diagnose a thyroid disorder. Ultrasound imaging may also be done to take a closer look at the thyroid and any growths or swelling that may be present to distinguish between nodules, goitre and cancer.

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Jul 2024


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Condition overview
Thyroid disorders

Thyroid disorders Specialists

We have brought together a group of leading Consultant Endocrinologists to form our Endocrinology team. With a huge depth of experience covering diabetes, adrenal disorders, metabolic syndrome and much more, these expert clinicians are the best in their field and are all focused on delivering the very best patient care.