10 Facts About Thyroid Disorders

  • Senior woman at doctor's office, doctor checking lymph nodes under jaw line
    1. The thyroid gland regulates all body functions.
    Your thyroid gland is an important organ located in front of your windpipe, just below your voice box. This small gland regulates all body functions. How does such a small organ do this? Your thyroid is responsible for controlling metabolism—how your body uses energy. The hormones your thyroid makes influence every cell in your body. They tell your body’s organs how fast or slow to work. When you have a thyroid disorder, your organs no longer work at the right pace.

  • Woman having a hot flash
    2. Thyroid disorder symptoms are the result of changes in metabolism.
    With thyroid disorders, you either have too much or too little thyroid hormone. Too much hormone revs your metabolism too high. You end up feeling hot, nervous or irritable. Other symptoms include trouble sleeping, weight loss, increased sweating, trembling, and a rapid heartbeat. Too little hormone slows your metabolism. The symptoms include feeling cold, weak, tired or depressed. Other symptoms include dry skin and hair, weight gain, and constipation.

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    3. Thyroid function involves the pituitary gland and TSH.
    TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is actually a pituitary hormone. The pituitary gland is at the base of your brain. It is the “master gland” because it makes hormones that control several other glands, including the thyroid. TSH is the pituitary hormone that controls the thyroid. The pituitary makes TSH when levels of thyroid hormone in the blood are too low. This stimulates the thyroid to increase hormone production. The pituitary shuts off TSH production when blood levels of thyroid hormone are too high.

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    4. A TSH test is the most accurate way to diagnose a thyroid disorder.
    Measuring TSH is the most accurate way to diagnose a thyroid disorder. An abnormally high TSH level points to hypothyroidism. The pituitary is pumping out TSH, but the thyroid gland isn’t responding. The pituitary continues to make TSH because it still senses low blood levels of thyroid hormone. An abnormally low TSH level points to hyperthyroidism. The thyroid is overactive and making lots of thyroid hormone. The pituitary senses excess thyroid hormone and shuts off TSH production.

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    5. An abnormal TSH level means more tests are necessary.
    Whether high or low, an abnormal TSH level tells your doctor something is wrong. It doesn’t necessarily reveal what is causing the problem. Your doctor will need to order more testing to get to the root of the problem. This usually means more blood tests, but it could also mean you need imaging exams like an ultrasound. Once your doctor knows the cause, you can start treatment and be on your way to thyroid health.

  • Mid adult woman sitting on the bed and suffering from a headache
    6. Thyroid disorders can be emotional.
    Some of the symptoms of a thyroid disorders are emotional in nature. Sadness, depression and fatigue can go along with hypothyroidism. Nervous, anxiety and irritability can go along with hyperthyroidism. Once you start treatment, these symptoms should subside. But it will take time. It’s important to be patient and get support from family and friends. Knowing the symptoms will resolve gives you hope. Let your doctor know if they persist. It may mean you need to reevaluate your treatment.

  • Pharmacist
    7. Thyroid disorders typically require lifelong treatment.
    Thyroid disorders typically require lifelong treatment with medications. But don’t let that get you down. Getting your medicines to the right dose and staying on them will have you feeling like yourself again. Your doctor may need to make several adjustments to get the dose just right. And your medication needs can change with age and other medical conditions. You’ll need periodic monitoring to make sure the dose is still right.

  • Woman holding pregnancy test, mid section
    8. Thyroid disorders can make it harder to get pregnant.
    Both hyper- and hypothyroidism can cause fertility problems. Thyroid disorders disrupt the hormones that control ovulation. And women with thyroid problems frequently have menstrual problems as well. This includes heavy, frequent, irregular, or even absent periods. Thyroid disorders also increase the chance of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and developmental problems in the baby. Talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant. Keeping your thyroid disorder under control can help prevent these problems.

  • Female doctor consoling a patient
    9. Thyroid disorders aren’t preventable, but there are exceptions.
    If you have a thyroid disorder, you may wonder if there’s anything you could have done to prevent it. Generally, the answer is no. There are risk factors that make thyroid disease more likely to occur. They include increasing age, being female, and having a family history of thyroid problems or autoimmune diseases. Having an autoimmune disease also increases the risk, as does going through other hormonal changes, such as pregnancy and menopause. A low level of iodine in your diet can lead to hypothyroidism. This is rare in most countries by because table salt has added iodine (iodized salt).

  • Young couple going for run with running club together
    10. Healthy living is important for your thyroid.
    It seems simple, but it’s true. Healthy living is important as you recover and treat your thyroid problem. Uncontrolled thyroid disorders can lead to serious problems with other body systems. This includes an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Managing your thyroid disorder with medicines is key to preventing these problems. But so is healthy living. Talk with your doctor about your diet, exercise, and sleep habits. Commit to making changes if you need to improve them.

10 Facts About Thyroid Disorders

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. General Information/Press Room. American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
  2. Thyroid Disease. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/thyroid-disease.html
  3. Thyroid Disease: Know the Facts. Thyroid Foundation of Canada. http://www.thyroid.ca/know_the_facts.php
  4. Thyroid Diseases. American Association for Clinical Chemistry. http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/thyroid/
  5. Thyroid Disorders. Endocrine Society. http://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/thyroid/overview
  6. Thyroid Disorders. The Nemours Foundation. http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/glandshoromones/thyroid.html
  7. Thyroid Tests. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/diagnostic-tests/thyroid-tests/Pages/defau...
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Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 3
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