Islamabad: From weight changes to impacting pregnancy, symptoms of an underactive or overactive thyroid can be life-changing You’ve undoubtedly heard about thyroid problems, but you wouldn’t be alone if you don’t really know exactly what the blanket term means or what the symptoms are. The small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck can be responsible for all manner of bodily issues – and while it does affect men, women are far more likely to experience hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid).
Great. If you’re worried about a sudden weight loss or gain or have questions about how your thyroid can affect pregnancy, Dr. Malcolm Prentice, Consultant Endocrinologist at The Lister Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK) shared his advice with us on what to look out for – and when you should seek medical help.
Underactive or Overactive Thyroid
What are the different types of thyroid conditions?
“The thyroid gland in the neck makes the thyroid hormone which is released into the blood to regulate the speed of all the metabolic chemical processes in the body,” explains Dr. Prentice. “The thyroid can become underactive, overactive, infected, or cancerous. It can also become short of Iodine which is essential for its function.
“Blood tests for thyroid hormones can detect all these conditions except thyroid cancer.”
What is the most common thyroid problem?
Dr. Prentice says the majority of patients will be diagnosed with an underactive thyroid; “where the thyroid only produces low levels of thyroid hormone resulting in hypothyroidism.”
Symptoms of this low level of thyroid hormone include:
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Heavy periods
- Increased problems with conception and pregnancy
However, there is a cure. A diagnosis from your doctor will lead to you being prescribed with a hormone replacement, which will usually reverse the effects of hypothyroidism.
What is an overactive thyroid gland?
Hyperthyroidism also applies to an overactive thyroid, however, the symptoms will be very different. These include:
- Weight loss
- Fast heart rate
- Loose and frequent bowels.
- It can occasionally lead to more serious heart complications and osteoporosis (thin bones)
“An overactive thyroid can always be effectively treated and cured either by tablets, a small single radiotherapy dose given in a pill, or surgery to remove the gland or parts of it,” says Dr. Prentice. “It may be unsafe to treat an overactive gland in pregnancy. So, pregnancy should, if possible, be planned around the thyroid treatment”.
“Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by infections of the gland – e.g. a virus which usually will resolve by itself – but sometimes additional medication is needed temporarily to reduce the inflammation. “
Can my thyroid affect my weight?
Absolutely – although it’s worth noting that sudden weight loss or gain doesn’t always mean hyperthyroidism or thyroid issues, and you should consult your doctor who can help diagnose and treat appropriately.
“Any weight loss or gain from a thyroid condition can be reversed by treatment. However, there are many other causes of altered weight which should be investigated if the thyroid tests are normal, in order to exclude other causes and treat them.” (cosmopolitanme.com)