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Thyroid Care

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located just above the collar bone within the neck. Its primary function is to producehormones.These thyroid hormones are responsible for the control and regulation of the metabolism of the body. It's when the production of the thyroid hormone deviates from normal that the individual starts experiencing adverse side effects.

The thyroid hormones -thyroxine and triiodothyronine, assist the body in converting food to energy, as well as play an integral role in processes involving body temperate and heart rate.Ideally, the body regulates these hormones within the blood, so that the processes in which they play an integral role occur at a stable rate. However, if the thyroid becomes overactive and starts producing an excess amount of these hormones, the body's metabolism will speed up and this can result in sudden weight loss or weight gain, an increased appetite, and hyperactivity.In contrast, an underactive thyroid gland which is not producing enough hormones can result in slowing down of many of the body's functions, potentially resulting in side effects such as tiredness, weight gain and depression.

Even though the effects of an under/overactive thyroid can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, right diagnosis and treatment can suppress the symptoms effectively.

If an underactive thyroid is left untreated for a prolonged period of time, more serious symptoms will develop as the condition advances. The symptoms can include:

  • Anaemia
  • Deafness
  • Hoarse or low-pitched voice
  • Slow heart rate

Treatments

Levothyroxine (thyroxine) is the medication which is prescribed to most individuals who have hypothyroidism. The medication will replace the thyroxine which the patient's own thyroid gland is no longer producing, and in most cases this will improve symptoms in a short period of time.

The primary aim of treatment for hyperthyroidism is to ensure that the level of thyroid hormones in the blood return to within what is considered to be the normal boundaries. Treatment may also be aimed at alleviating any associated conditions which may have arisen as a result of an overactive thyroid, for example goiter - a common side effect which involves swelling of the thyroid gland.

An ultrasound scan can enable the endocrinologist to gauge the size of a goitre (swollen thyroid gland) and will also allow them to see whether it is putting pressure on the surrounding tissues in the neck.

Radioisotope (radionuclide scan)test involves a very small and harmless dose of a radioactive substance such as iodine, being injected into the blood stream. The medical professional performing the test will then pass a scanner over the neck so that overactive areas of the thyroid can be identified.

Radioiodine is a branch of radiotherapy which is commonly used for the treatment of many overactive thyroid cases. The treatment involves radioactive iodine which develops in the thyroid gland and shrinks it, reducing the volume of thyroid hormone that it can produce.

The treatment itself involves either swallowing a capsule or drinking a drink which contains a very low dosage of radioactive iodine. The quantity is so small that it is harmless, though pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should note that this treatment is not suitable for them. Men should also note that it is unadvisable to father a child for at least four months after undergoing the treatment.

The aim of this treatment is to cause a buildup of radioactive iodine in the thyroid gland so that some of the tissue is destroyed, subsequently resulting in a reduction in the amount of thyroxine which is made.

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