Thyroid Disorders – Types, Symptoms, and Treatment

The thyroid is a small gland that forms a part of the network of glands known as the endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for regulating and coordinating most of the body’s activities.

The thyroid gland produces hormones, which play a key role in regulating the body’s metabolism.Several health problems can arise when the thyroid gland produces too much or too less of these hormones. When the thyroid is overproducing or under producing hormones, it may cause a range of bothersome symptoms including weight loss, irritability, fatigue, and weight gain.

The common issues linked to the thyroid gland include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, and goiter. Here is a brief discussion about common thyroid disorders as well as their symptoms and the most effective treatments for managing them.


Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid has become overactive and started producing too much hormones. This causes most of the body’s activities to speed up.

Graves’ disease is one of the common causes of hyperthyroidism, affecting nearly 70 percent of patients with an overactive thyroid. The formation of nodules on the thyroid caused due to multinodulargoiter and toxic nodular goiter can also cause this gland to overproduce thyroid hormones.

Hyperthyroidism can also occur due to other factors such as inflammation in the gland, increased iodine intake, excess thyroid hormone medications, non-cancerous pituitary gland tumors, and overactive thyroid nodules.

Excessive production of thyroid hormones may lead to symptoms such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Faster heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Increased sweating
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Thin skin
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Brittle nails and hair

The treatment of hyperthyroidism usually involves the use of anti-thyroid medications such as methimazole that can prevent the thyroid from producing excess hormones. Radioiodine therapy may be recommended for some patients.


Hypothyroidism develops when the thyroid gland becomes underactive and is unable to produce enough hormones. This may cause some of the body’s activities to slow down.

Hypothyroidism is usually caused due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, and damage from radiation therapy.It may also be caused by other factors such as thyroiditis, iodine deficiency, congenital hypothyroidism, and pituitary or hypothalamus disorders.

Too little production of thyroid hormone can lead to several symptoms such as:

  • Dry skin and hair
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures
  • Constipation
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Weakness or muscle and joint pain
  • Weight gain
  • Slow heart rate
  • Fertility problems
  • Heavy or irregular menstruation
  • Coma

The primary treatment of hypothyroidism includes thyroid hormone replacement therapy. It is important to use the right dosage of thyroid drugs because taking a higher dosage may trigger the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

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Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is the common cause of hypothyroidism. It can affect people of any age, although it is more common in middle-aged women.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland by considering it a foreign invader. This can reduce the ability of the gland to produce hormones resulting in hypothyroidism

Most patients with mild forms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have no evident symptoms. The condition may remain undetected for several years, as the symptoms are usually subtle and also not very specific.

Some common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mild weight gain
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Dry skin
  • Heavy, irregular menstruation
  • Paleness, or puffiness of the face
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland

There is no known cure for this form of thyroiditis. Hormone-replacement therapy could be effective in some cases to raise thyroid hormone levels. It may also help relieve the symptoms of the condition.

Graves’ disease

It is an autoimmune disorder, which develops when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This may cause the gland to overproduce the hormones responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism.

Graves’ disease is hereditary in nature. It is more common in young women between 20 to 30 years of age. Some common risk factors for this condition include pregnancy, family history, stress, and smoking. A history of infections like infectious mononucleosis that occurs due to the Epstein-Barr virus can also make patients vulnerable to developing Graves’ disease.

The higher production of thyroid hormonesin patients withGraves’ disease can cause the activities in the body to speed up resulting in symptoms that are similar to hyperthyroidism. Some early warning signs of Graves’ disease may include unusual anxiety, hand tremors, irritability, fatigue, increased and irregular heart rate, excessive sweating, difficulty sleeping, and unintended weight loss.

Our respiratory therapy webinars nursing provide detailed information about the different types of thyroid diseases, their symptoms, and treatment options.


Goiter is a benign or non-cancerous enlargement of the thyroid. The deficiency of iodine in the diet is the most common cause of goiter across the world. Goiter can affect people of all ages, especially in countries where the regular diet is deficient in foods that are naturally rich in iodine.

Some other precursors of Goiters include Graves’ disease, congenital hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, and pituitary gland tumors.

Goiter is not known to cause any severe symptoms until the condition has progressed considerably. Some common symptoms that may develop include swelling and tightness in the neck, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, frequent coughing or wheezing, and hoarseness of voice.


Thyroid diseases are typically caused due to the overproduction or underproduction of the thyroid hormone.These disorders can be diagnosed with the help of a physical examination, thyroid function tests, and imaging tests. A biopsy may be recommended in some cases to rule out thyroid cancer.

Doctors can attend our AARC approved continuing education to learn more about the different types of thyroid diseases, their symptoms, and the best treatments they can recommend to their patients to manage the disorders in a safe and effective way.