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What Contributes to Thyroid Dysfunction?

Written by Courteney

Posted on January 10, 2017 at 1:54 am

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The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck (below the Adam’s apple) that produces the triiodothyronine and thyroxine hormones. These hormones help regulate many functions within the body including metabolism, heart rate, growth and reproductive processes. A whopping 20 million Americans will develop some type of thyroid condition at some point in their lifetimes, more women being affected than men. There are various disorders that cause this gland to malfunction, let’s take a closer look:

Different Thyroid Conditions

The two most common thyroid diseases are: Hypothyroidism (when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones), and hyperthyroidism (when your thyroid gland is overactive). However, thyroid dysfunction goes well beyond these two disorders. Some of the lesser known thyroid conditions include:

  1. Thyroid cancer – There are different types of cancer that affect the thyroid such as medullary, follicular, hurtle cell and anaplastic thyroid cancer.
  2. Goiter – When the thyroid gland becomes abnormally enlarged it is referred to as a goiter. It is often caused by an iodine deficiency and may indicate an underlying condition.
  3. Thyroiditis – refers to inflammation of the thyroid gland caused by an underlying condition (such as a virus).
  4. Graves’ Disease – is an autoimmune disorder caused by the overproduction of thyroid hormones and leads to hyperthyroidism.
  5. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – is an autoimmune disease whereby the body attacks its own thyroid gland, resulting in many problems such as inflammation, weight gain and cold intolerance.

What Can Cause the Thyroid to Malfunction?

Sometimes the cause is unknown, but common contributing factors include:

  • Autoimmunity – when the body produces antibodies that attack your own organs, glands and tissues it can disrupt the thyroid leading to one of the disorders listed above. This can be hereditary or as a result of certain bacteria or viruses.
  • Congenital causes – sometimes babies are born with an underdeveloped or missing thyroid gland.
  • Medications or treatments – certain medications or treatments such as lithium or radiation can cause the thyroid to malfunction.
  • Iodine levels – taking in too little or too much iodine can interfere with thyroid function.
  • Certain substances such as red dye (no. 3), processed meat or certain chemicals (like perfluorochemicals) can cause thyroid disruption or even thyroid cancer.
  • Benign or malignant tumors can block the thyroid or lead to cancer of the thyroid.
  • Pregnancy – According to the Mayo Clinic, in rare instances pregnant women develop antibodies to their thyroid gland during or post pregnancy, resulting in hypothyroidism (this should be addressed immediately if it happens during the pregnancy as it can cause harm to the baby).
  • Pituitary glad malfunction – when the pituitary gland fails to produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone it can cause thyroid conditions.

Well, there you have some of the major types and causes of thyroid dysfunction! Thanks for visiting DocChat. If you have any medical concerns, our board-certified physicians are standing by 24/7/365 to assist you!

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