Thyroid is like a car engine of your body which produces necessary energy to operate in a certain manner. It is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck. Thyroid regulates vital metabolic processes in your body including growth and energy use. It also plays a main role in proper functioning of the body’s most important organs, including the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and skin. Thyroid pumps out two key hormones—triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). When you have thyroid disease, your thyroid gland can either become overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). Women are more likely than men to have thyroid disease.

Causes of hypothyroidism:

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It is an autoimmune condition in which the body makes antibodies that destroy parts of the thyroid gland. Sometimes, certain medications (for instance, amiodarone, lithium, etc.) can also cause hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency is also a cause of hypothyroidism. Radiation used to treat cancers of the head and neck can affect the thyroid gland and may lead to hypothyroidism. Other causes of hypothyroidism include genetic disorders, pituitary problems, hypothalamus problems, inflammation of the thyroid caused by a virus or bacteria, autoimmune disorders, thyroid removal, non-cancerous lumps inside the thyroid, and cancerous tumors on the thyroid gland. Excessive stress can affect the functioning of the thyroid.

Causes of hyperthyroidism:

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. In this condition, the immune system produces an antibody that stimulates the entire thyroid gland and this leads to over-activity and higher levels of thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism is also caused by a toxic nodular or multinodular goiter. These are lumps or nodules in the thyroid gland that cause the thyroid to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. Adenomas in the thyroid produce thyroid hormones even when they are not needed, which leads to hyperthyroidism. Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland) is also a cause of hyperthyroidism. During pregnancy, some women tend to develop an inflamed thyroid. This condition is also known as postpartum thyroiditis. Cancerous thyroid tumors can affect the production of thyroid hormones and lead to hyperthyroidism. Patients who receive excessive thyroxine replacement treatment can develop hyperthyroidism.

Treatment of hypothyroidism:

The most effective treatment for hypothyroidism is just taking an appropriate amount of synthetic thyroxine (levothyroxine). Synthetic thyroxine is a medication that is identical to the T4 hormone. Sometimes, a combination therapy of levothyroxine and triiodothyronine (T3) is used to treat hypothyroidism. Natural extracts containing thyroid hormone derived from the thyroid glands of pigs are also available for treating hypothyroidism. An appropriate amount of iodine supplement is used to treat hypothyroidism. Alternative therapies for hypothyroidism include yoga, meditation, hypnosis, vitamins, and special diets.

Treatment of hyperthyroidism:

Antithyroid drugs, such as methimazole and propylthiouracil, are commonly used for treatment of hyperthyroidism. Radioactive iodine treatment is a very safe, simple, and reliably effective treatment. It effectively destroys the cells that produce hormones. In rare cases, removal of the thyroid (either one part or the entire gland) is necessary. A drug from the class of beta-adrenergic blocking agents (which decrease the effects of excess thyroid hormone) can temporarily control hyperthyroid symptoms until other therapies take effect.