Through the hormones it produces, the thyroid gland influences almost all of the metabolic processes in your body. Thyroid disorders can range from a small, harmless goiter(enlarged gland) that needs no treatment to life-threatening cancer. The most common thyroid problems involve abnormal production of thyroid hormones. Too much thyroid hormone results in a condition known ashyperthyroidism. Insufficient hormone production leads tohypothyroidism.
Although the effects can be unpleasant or uncomfortable, most thyroid problems can be managed well if properly diagnosed and treated.
All types of hyperthyroidism are due to an overproduction of thyroid hormones, but the condition can occur in several ways:
Hypothyroidism , by contrast, stems from an underproduction of thyroid hormones. Since your body's energy production requires certain amounts of thyroid hormones, a drop in hormone production leads to lower energy levels. Causes of hypothyroidism include:
Untreated for long periods of time, hypothyroidism can bring on a myxedema coma, a rare but potentially fatal condition that requires immediate hormone treatment.Hypothyroidism poses a special danger to newborns and infants. A lack of thyroid hormones in the system at an early age can lead to the development of cretinism (mental retardation) and dwarfism (stunted growth). Most infants now have their thyroid levels checked routinely soon after birth. If they are hypothyroid, treatment begins immediately. In infants, as in adults, hypothyroidism can be due to these causes:
A hypothyroid infant is unusually inactive and quiet, has a poor appetite, and sleeps for excessively long periods of time.
Cancer of the thyroid gland is quite rare and occurs in about 5% of thyroid nodules. You might have one or more thyroid nodules for several years before they are determined to be cancerous. People who have received radiation treatment to the head and neck earlier in life, possibly as a remedy for acne, tend to have a higher-than-normal risk of developing thyroid