Types Of Thyroid Disorders: What Are The Main Conditions And What Causes Them

The thyroid is an important gland in your body that is responsible for regulating various functions. Therefore, suffering from a form of thyroid disorder can wreak havoc on your health. Thyroid conditions can range from mild to severe, so seeking treatment is essential. In this article, join us as we explore the different types of thyroid disorders, detailing what causes them and how they can be managed effectively.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of your neck that produces hormones to regulate different bodily functions. If the hormones your thyroid produces become disrupted in any way, this can lead to health problems and the development of a thyroid disorder.

Thyroid disorders cause severe health problems if left untreated and certain types, such as thyroid cancer, can be life-threatening. Some thyroid disorders may have milder symptoms but can still cause discomfort in your everyday life.

What does the thyroid do?

Your thyroid is part of the endocrine system which is made up of many different glands that produce hormones. Other glands within this system include the pituitary gland, the pancreas, ovaries and the adrenal gland.

The primary function of the thyroid gland is to regulate:

  • Your metabolism

  • Hormone production

  • Your weight

  • Internal body temperature

  • Your skin, nails and hair growth

As the thyroid is involved in so many bodily functions, this explains why lots of different symptoms can occur when you have a thyroid disorder.

What are thyroid disorders?

Thyroid disorders are a group of conditions that affect your thyroid’s normal function. They can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing by causing a wide range of symptoms. For example, this might include:

  • A swollen thyroid gland

  • Unexplained weight loss or gain

  • Fatigue

  • Cold sensitivity

  • Depression

  • Muscle cramps

  • Dry skin

  • Brittle hair and nails

  • Decreased libido

  • Constipation

  • Irregular or heavy periods

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Persistent thirst

  • Heat sensitivity

These symptoms can have a negative effect on your daily life, both mentally and physically.

Plus, each different type of thyroid disorder will have different symptoms depending on their exact cause.

Types of thyroid disorders

There are multiple different thyroid disorders you can develop — each of which has a unique set of symptoms. Therefore, finding the right treatment will depend on the type of thyroid disorder you have.

Below we detail some of the most common types of thyroid disorders.


Underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, occurs when your thyroid stops producing enough of the hormones needed for your body to function properly. Common symptoms of an underactive thyroid include weight gain, depression and fatigue.

Hypothyroidism can often be misdiagnosed due to its symptoms being associated with other conditions or lifestyle factors. The symptoms of hypothyroidism can also develop slowly over time – in fact, you might not even realise there is anything wrong until your symptoms become severe.

If hypothyroidism is left untreated, the condition can result in a low-pitched voice, a slower heart rate and iron-deficiency anaemia.

Causes and risk factors

Hypothyroidism is often caused in one of two ways. Firstly, by your immune system attacking your thyroid gland and, secondly, from receiving thyroid gland treatment to treat either cancer or an overactive thyroid. Babies can also be born with congenital hypothyroidism but this is more uncommon.

Other potential causes for hypothyroidism include a pituitary gland disorder and taking certain medications.

Some people can be at increased risk of developing hypothyroidism, with some of the main risk factors including:

  • Other health conditions, like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus

  • Being a woman (particularly a woman over the age of 60)

  • Pregnancy

  • A family history of the condition


Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, is where your thyroid overproduces hormones. Although these hormones are necessary for your body to function healthily, too many of them can cause disruption and uncomfortable symptoms.

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include anxiety, mood swings, difficulty sleeping and an increased need to urinate. All of these symptoms might be misdiagnosed as other health conditions, which is why testing is so essential.

Causes and risk factors

Although anyone can develop hyperthyroidism, it’s more common in women between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. This is thought to be due to the hormonal changes that women naturally go through during these ages, such as pregnancy, or later, menopause.

There are multiple potential causes of hyperthyroidism. These can include:

  • Autoimmune conditions such as Graves’ disease

  • Thyroid nodules

  • Certain medications, particularly ones that contain iodine

  • Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid)

  • Thyroid cancer


Like hypothyroidism, certain people are at more risk of developing hyperthyroidism. This includes:

  • Pregnant women

  • People with a family history of the condition

  • Patients with autoimmune conditions

  • Patients with a history of chronic illnesses like iron deficiency anaemia

  • Women between the ages of 20 and 40 years old

Autoimmune thyroid disorders (Hashimoto's and Graves' disease)

Some thyroid disorders are autoimmune disorders. This means that the antibodies from your immune system attack your thyroid by mistake.

Two of the main examples of this are Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease.

  • Hashimoto’s disease causes the death of the thyroid hormone-producing cells in your body, resulting in hypothyroidism.

  • Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder that leads to hyperthyroidism. It can also cause problems with your eyes such as bulging, puffiness, light sensitivity and changes to your vision.

Neither Hashimoto’s nor Graves’ disease can be cured. They are chronic, lifelong conditions that need to be managed with the right treatment plan. However, by treating hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, you can lead a life with minimal symptoms.

Causes and risk factors

Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease are a result of your immune system malfunctioning, causing your antibodies to attack your thyroid tissue.

Certain risk factors can elevate your risk of this happening. These include:

  • Being female

  • Having a family history of the condition

  • Pre-existing autoimmune conditions like diabetes

  • Smoking

  • Pregnancy


A goitre is a lump or swelling in your neck that’s caused by a swollen thyroid. While they are not a serious condition, it’s always best to have them checked by a doctor.

Goitres can cause symptoms such as a persistent cough, changes to your voice, difficulty swallowing and a feeling as if something is stuck in your throat.

Causes and risk factors

A goitre can be caused by many different factors, such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Therefore, if you already have a thyroid disorder, you can be at a higher risk of developing one.

Some other potential risk factors can include:

  • Age

  • Gender — women are more likely to develop them

  • Being pregnant

  • Menopause

  • Family history of thyroid disorders

  • Certain medications

Thyroid nodules

Not to be confused with a goitre, thyroid nodules are non-cancerous growths that develop on, or inside, your thyroid. These can then lead to an overproduction of thyroid hormones and result in hyperthyroidism.

Causes and risk factors

The main cause of thyroid nodules is an overgrowth of thyroid tissue. However, they can also be caused by other factors, such as cysts, chronic inflammation and thyroid cancer.

Risk factors for developing thyroid nodules typically include:

  • A family history of thyroid disorders

  • Iron-deficiency anaemia

  • Smoking

  • Obesity

Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is rare in the UK and, like other forms of cancer, can range in its level of severity.

Some of the main symptoms of thyroid cancer can include:

  • A hard, painless lump in the front, lower part of your neck

  • A sore throat

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Pain or pressure in your neck

  • A red face

  • Soft stools or diarrhoea

  • Weight loss

  • A cough

There are four different types of thyroid cancer — papillary carcinoma, follicular carcinoma, medullary thyroid carcinoma and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma. Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is the rarest form, with papillary carcinoma being the most common.

Causes and risk factors

In most diagnosed cases of thyroid cancer, the cause is unknown. However, some factors can increase your risk of developing it. These can include:

  • Having a pre-existing thyroid condition

  • Having a family history of thyroid cancer

  • Having a previous non-cancerous breast condition

Prevention and management of thyroid disorders

While it’s not always possible to prevent thyroid disorders, there are certain things you can do to minimise your risk.

Here are some top tips to help you maintain a healthy thyroid:

  • Limit highly processed foods

  • Ensure you consume enough iron in your diet

  • Give up smoking

  • Have regular health check-ups with your doctor — this enables early treatment

While these changes won’t guarantee you don’t develop a thyroid disorder, they can lower your overall risk.

Treatment for thyroid disorders

Treatment for thyroid disorders varies depending on the type of disorder you are diagnosed with. Typically, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are treated with medications to either suppress or increase hormone production in the thyroid gland.

For other conditions, like thyroid cancer, your treatment plan will depend on the type and grade of thyroid cancer you have. Some of the treatments involved with this can include radiotherapy or surgery to remove the thyroid gland completely.

With so many different thyroid disorders, being correctly diagnosed will ensure you find the right treatment plan for you.

Here at OneWelbeck, our expert endocrinology team understands how these disorders can affect your daily life and will work with you to ease your symptoms.

If you’re concerned about your thyroid or want to be proactive with your health, contact us today to book a consultation. We will be with you every step of the way, providing you with a treatment plan tailored to your exact needs.


How OneWelbeck can help

Here at OneWelbeck, we have a team of exemplary specialists, state of the art facilities and diagnostics, and highly competitive financial packages for self-funding patients as well as those with private health care.

Types Of Thyroid Disorders: What Are The Main Conditions And What Causes Them