We function with the help of glands that are present throughout our body, and the thyroid is one such gland that produces hormones that help control the vital functions of our system. The thyroid mainly releases hormones that control our metabolism – the process where the food we consume is broken down into energy. This energy is used to ensure the optimum operation of all organs.
When the thyroid gland doesn’t work properly, it releases either very large or very small quantities of thyroid hormones, leading to severe health problems (1).
In this article, we will look at the different types of thyroid and their symptoms.
Types of Thyroid Disease
1. Hypothyroidism: It occurs when the thyroid gland produces an insufficient quantity of hormones. When there is underproduction of the thyroid hormone, you may feel sluggish, more tired than usual, and develop sensitivity to cold temperatures.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Feeling extremely tired
- Experiencing memory loss or frequent forgetfulness
- Weight gain or the inability to lose weight despite putting in the effort
- Increased period frequency and heavier flow
- Dry and coarse hair
- Hoarse voice and sore throat
- Intolerance or sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Decreased heart rate
2. Hyperthyroidism: This occurs when the thyroid gland is over-active and produces more hormones than the body needs. Like hypothyroidism, this condition is also more common in women.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include
- Experiencing anxiety, irritability or nervousness
- Trouble in sleeping
- Losing or gaining weight for no reason
- Having an enlarged thyroid gland, also known as goitre
- Experiencing tremors and muscle weakness
- Irregular menstrual cycles or amenorrhea (having your menstrual cycle stop)
- Sensitivity to heat
- Blurry vision or irritation in the eyes
- Heart palpitations and/or increased heart rate
- Experiencing hair loss or thinning of hair (1,2).
Thyroiditis is the swelling or inflammation of the thyroid gland. It leads to over or underproduction of the thyroid hormones. This, in turn, affects our metabolism negatively and messes up the operation of our organs, like the functioning of the heart and regulation of body temperature.
There are three phases of thyroiditis:
- Thyrotoxic phase: In this phase, the thyroid is inflamed and releases hormones way above the body’s requirement.
- Hypothyroid phase: The excessive release of thyroid hormones for a prolonged period of time (a few weeks or months), the thyroid gland runs out of enough thyroid hormones to release. This leads to a lack of thyroid hormones, aka hypothyroidism.
- Euthyroid phase. In this phase, the thyroid hormone levels are normal. This phase may come temporarily after the thyrotoxic phase. Either before reaching the hypothyroid phase or at the end after the thyroid gland has recovered from the inflammation and can maintain a normal hormone level (3).
The common symptoms of thyroiditis include fatigue, swelling at the base of the neck, and sometimes mild pain in the front of the throat. However, thyroiditis symptoms depend on whether the thyroid hormones are underproduced (hypothyroidism) or overproduced (hyperthyroidism). the symptoms depends on the production of thyroid hormone.
1. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: It is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, which damages the gland, and as a result, it gets swollen. The swollen thyroid may also cause a lump (goitre) to form in the throat. It is still unknown what causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland, and the condition can take months to detect.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: Over time, the thyroid gland gets more and more damaged and cannot produce enough hormones. It leads to hypothyroidism. They are followed by the signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland like tiredness, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, mental fog, muscle aches, loss of libido, pain or numbness in the fingers, muscle cramps, dry or scaly skin, irregular periods, and brittle hair and nails.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is more common in women than in men. People with celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes are more susceptible to developing this condition. If left untreated, it can lead to complications like heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, to name a few(4). Therefore, consult a doctor if you notice any of the abovementioned symptoms or abnormalities.
2. Subacute thyroiditis or De Quervain’s thyroiditis: Also known as Giant Cell Thyroiditis, is brought on by viral infections like mumps or the flu and their resulting inflammatory reactions. Patients may experience symptoms of hyperthyroidism like neck pain, sweating, heat intolerance and fever. Subsequently, they may encounter symptoms of hypothyroidism, like fatigue, dry skin, intolerance to cold weather and constipation.
Unlike other types of thyroiditis, subacute thyroiditis usually resolves itself spontaneously. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor if any symptoms mentioned above are experienced(5.
3. Postpartum Thyroiditis
It is an auto-immune condition that occurs in women shortly after birth. In post-partum thyroiditis, anti-thyroid antibodies attack the thyroid glands within approximately 6 months of giving birth.
In this type of thyroiditis, thyroid hormone levels rise temporarily (thyrotoxicosis). It results in symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). This makes the organs of the body work way faster than their capacity. Subsequently, this condition leads to an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), which leads to the underproduction of thyroid hormones. It then slows down the functioning of the organs.
However, not every woman with post-partum thyroiditis will necessarily go through both phases.
The symptoms of post-partum thyroiditis depend on the phase of thyroiditis experienced.
This condition is more common in women with anti-thyroid antibodies, women who have a family history of diabetes and thyroid, and women with type 1 diabetes.
Women should ensure regular post-partum check-ups with their gynaecologists to screen themselves for this condition and treat it early. In most women, thyroid function returns to normal within the first 12 months of giving birth(4).
4. Radiation-induced thyroiditis: This is usually caused by external radiation used to treat some cancers. It can also be caused by radioactive iodine treatment given to an overactive thyroid gland. Symptoms of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism may follow in this type of thyroiditis.
5. Acute or Infectious thyroiditis is usually caused by a bacterial infection and is more common in people with weak or compromised immune systems. It is more common in children and can impede the development of the thyroid gland in them. Symptoms of infectious thyroiditis include a lump in the neck, pain in swallowing, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and a sharp onset of pain in the neck(5).
If left unattended, this type of thyroiditis can worsen at an alarming rate. Go to a trusted doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
One thing that stands out from this brief overview of types of the thyroid is that most of these conditions are caused due to a weakened immune system and improper nourishment of the body. Thanks to modern science, treatments are available for almost all diseases. There are several side effects of all the medications we mindlessly pop.
In addition to seeking proper medical advice, it is important to address the root cause of all diseases and reverse the patterns that cause them in the first place. iThrive’s mission is to spread correct information about proper nutrition and how the right foods can be your medicine if you eat them according to your individual needs. If you have thyroid dysfunction and want to reverse it using the Functional Nutrition Approach, visit iThrive’s website and book a consultation with us. You can also read our blogs for healthy recipes and general tips on leading a holistic lifestyle.