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Thyroid Disorders; Key Q&A.

What is thyroiditis?

Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. It can result in a nodule, or it can cause hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or both (one followed by the other).

What role does the thyroid play in the body?

The thyroid gland makes, stores and releases thyroid hormone (TH), which is known as the body's metabolic hormone. TH tells the body how fast to use energy. If there is too much TH in your blood, you become hyperthyroid, and you use energy too fast. If there is too little TH in your blood, you become hypothyroid, and you use energy too slowly.

What causes hypothyroidism?

The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States is an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Hypothyroidism also can occur spontaneously; can develop during or after pregnancy; can be present at birth; or can develop after hyperthyroid treatment.

What is the cause of hyperthyroidism?

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disease known as Graves' disease. It can also be the result of nodules (lumps in the gland) that cause an overproduction of TH. Hyperthyroidism also can develop during or after pregnancy.

Is Graves' disease curable?

Graves' disease is not curable, but it is rarely fatal and is a completely treatable disease. Remission may be permanent, but the thyroid should be checked periodically to be sure. Severe stress can aggravate a recurrence.

What causes postpartum thyroiditis?

The cause of postpartum thyroiditis is not known, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disease similar to Hashimoto's thyroiditis. As with Hashimoto's, postpartum thyroiditis is associated with the development of anti-thyroid antibodies.

What if I need treatment for hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism while I'm pregnant?

Pregnant women are at an increased risk of developing thyroid dysfunction as compared to the general population. Any woman with a prior history of a thyroid problem, a family history of thyroid disease or symptoms of thyroid dysfunction should be tested for thyroid dysfunction as soon as she knows she is pregnant. TH (T4) is absolutely safe to take during pregnancy and is essential for the health of the fetus if you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. If you are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, beta blockers and antithyroid drugs are used. If a woman is allergic to these drugs, surgery may also be considered. Radioactive iodine is not an option because it will pass into the fetus and damage its thyroid gland.

Is there a relationship between thyroid disorders and osteoporosis?

Untreated hyperthyroidism can increase your risk for osteoporosis. Bones generally renew themselves in a process called bone turnover or resorption. Because hyperthyroidism increases the body's metabolism, bone turnover also is increased. This increase causes old bone tissue to dissolve before new tissue is fully formed, which does not give the body enough time to produce enough minerals for the new bones. The result: thin or weakened bones--osteoporosis.

Do some people have both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism?

The use of thyroid hormone or antithyroid drug treatment can, over time, produce the opposite effect, especially if the dose of medication given is too high. This means that if you are taking antithyroid medication for hyperthyroidism, you could become hypothyroid; if you are taking thyroid hormone medication for hypothyroidism, you could become hyperthyroid. Pay close attention to how you feel and be aware of the symptoms for each type of thyroid disorder.

Do chest and dental x-rays place me at a higher risk for thyroid cancer?

X-rays used today to take images of the head and chest are not harmful. However, radiation procedures from the 1920s to the 1960s for inflamed tonsils, adenoids, lymph nodes or an enlarged thymus gland could put you at risk. There is a clearly established relationship between thyroid cancer and these early radiation treatments of the head and neck. If you believe you were exposed to this type of treatment as a child or an adult, you should have your thyroid checked annually.

Can taking your morning basal body temperature accurately predict a thyroid disorder?

No. Some people have normally high or low waking body temperatures. The only way to accurately diagnose a thyroid disorder is with a highly sensitive TSH blood test.

References

"Postpartum Thyroiditis." The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Did you know." National Graves' Disease Foundation. Updated October 31, 2004. http://www.ngdf.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

Berkow, Robert (ed). The Merk Manual. New Jersey: 1997. p. 693.

"Thyroid Experts Warn of Clinically Important Differences in Potency of FDA-approved Levothyroxine Products." American Thyroid Association News Release. August 11, 2004. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Hyperthyroidism." The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Hypothyroidism." The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Thyroid Nodules: The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Cancer of the Thyroid" The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Thyroid Hormone Treatment" The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Thyroid Disease and Pregnancy" The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Thyroid Function Tests" The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Thyroid: U.S. Racial/Ethnic Cancer Patterns." National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"Autoimmune Disease Patient Information." American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. http://www.aarda.org. Accessed December 11, 2004.

"A Healthy Thyroid.You Make the Difference" AACE Thyroid Awareness Month 2005. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. http://www.aace.com. Accessed January 20, 2005.

"Hyperthyroidism." The National Institutes of Health. August 2006. http://www.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed December 2006.

"Thyroid disease: Basic thyroid information." Georgetown Department of Medicine. http://medicine.georgetown.edu. Accessed December 2006.

"Thyroid nodules." The American Thyroid Association. 2005. http://64.233.161.104. Accessed December 2006.

"What are the risk factors for thyroid cancer?" The American Cancer Society. August 2005. http://www.cancer.org. Accessed December 2006.

"Radioactive iodine uptake." The National Institutes of Health. November 2006. http://www.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed December 2006.

"Thyroid nodule ultrasound." EndocrineWeb.com. January 2005. http://www.endocrineweb.com. Accessed December 2005.

"Thyroid Disease: Understanding Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism." Harvard Medical School special report. http://www.health.harvard.edu. Accessed December 2006.

"My Family Health Portrait." The U.S. Surgeon General. https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/. Accessed December 2006.

"Thyroid fact sheet." The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. 2005. http://www.medem.com. Accessed December 2006.

"Postpartum thyroiditis." The American Thyroid Association. 2005. http://64.233.161.104. Accessed December 2006.

"Endocrinology health guide: The thyroid gland." University of Maryland Medical Center. 2006. http://www.umm.edu. Accessed December 2006.

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Publication:NWHRC Health Center - Thyroid Disorders
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Date:Mar 14, 2007
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