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Thyroid disease is a medical condition that affects the function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck and produces thyroid hormones that travel through the blood to help regulate many other organs, meaning that it is an endocrine organ. These hormones normally act in the body to regulate energy use, infant development, and childhood development.
If dysfunction of the thyroid is suspected, laboratory tests can help support or rule out thyroid disease. Initial blood tests often include thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (T4). Total and free triiodothyronine (T3) levels are less commonly used. If autoimmune disease of the thyroid is suspected, blood tests looking for Anti-thyroid autoantibodies can also be obtained. Procedures such as ultrasound, biopsy and a radioiodine scanning and uptake study may also be used to help with the diagnosis, particularly if a nodule is suspected.
Thyroid diseases are highly prevalent worldwide and treatment varies based on the disorder. Levothyroxine is the mainstay of treatment for people with hypothyroidism, while people with hyperthyroidism caused by Graves’ disease can be managed with iodine therapy, antithyroid medication, or surgical removal of the thyroid gland. Thyroid surgery may also be performed to remove a thyroid nodule or to reduce the size of a goiter if it obstructs nearby structures or for cosmetic reasons.
There are five general types of thyroid disease, each with its own symptoms. A person may have one or several different types at the same time. The five groups are:
Symptoms of the condition vary with type: hypo- vs. hyperthyroidism, which are further described below.
Possible symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
Possible symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:
Hypothyroidism is a state in which the body is not producing enough thyroid hormones, or is not able to respond to / utilize existing thyroid hormones properly. The main categories are:
Exophthalmos is the eye-bulging that may be seen with Graves Disease, one of the major causes of hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is a state in which the body is producing too much thyroid hormone. The main hyperthyroid conditions are:
Certain medications can have the unintended side effect of affecting thyroid function. While some medications can lead to significant hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and those at risk will need to be carefully monitored, some medications may affect thyroid hormone lab tests without causing any symptoms or clinical changes, and may not require treatment. The following medications have been linked to various forms of thyroid disease:
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