By Gilda Morales, ANP, DC
One of the more common chronic diseases involves the thyroid. It can be over-active, which is called hyperthyroid, or more commonly, underactive, or hypothyroid. The thyroid is a small, but very important gland found in the neck area, which controls many body functions.
Hyperthyroidism can cause a myriad of symptoms including an irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation, fast heart rate, hot flashes, sweating, and even fever. A more serious type of hyperthyroidism, called thyrotoxosis, can affect cause other symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, increased appetite and weight loss. There can also be some neurological symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, emotional ups and downs, poor concentration and even coma. Physically, the patient may present with bulging eyes, or a large mass in the neck called a goiter, and the condition affects females more than 3 times than men. In more severe cases, there can even be neurological symptoms such as tremor and muscle weakness. Treatment consists of radioactive ablation of the gland, which will require lifelong treatment with synthetic thyroid.
Hypothyroidism has the opposite symptoms, with cold intolerance, dry skin, fatigue, constipation, and sometimes thinning hair and weight gain. Sometimes, depression is due to a low thyroid level and should be investigated on anyone that is having symptoms of depression. The treatment for hypothyroidism is somewhat simpler and involves taking a synthetic thyroid depending on the severity. Efficacy of the medication is judged on blood tests every 6 months.