BHealthy Blog

Understanding 4 Types of Thyroid Conditions

In collaboration with Karen Thrift, APRN, specialized in Endocrinology from Baptist Health Adult Medicine Specialists-Fort Smith.

Many changes in health can arise if you do not take care of your body when it’s needed. In the United States, more than 12% of the population has an undiagnosed thyroid condition because the symptoms are often mild. Even though some of the causes of thyroid gland problems are unknown, here are the most common types of thyroid conditions, risk factors, and when you should see a doctor.

What Is The Thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of our neck. The thyroid gland secretes hormones and assists in controlling many metabolic activities like heart rate, body temperature, energy production and many other body functions.

Common Thyroid Conditions

Two hormones produced by the thyroid gland help the body function regularly, Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4). Several conditions can occur if the thyroid gland is underactive or overactive in hormone production. 

Here are four of the most common types of thyroid conditions:

1. Hyperthyroidism

This condition happens when the thyroid gland produces more thyroxine hormone than the body needs. Although hyperthyroidism can affect people of all ages differently, women are more likely to have a thyroid.

Some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:

  • Fatigue
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Weight and hair loss
  • Nervousness
  • Itchy skin
  • Humor changes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Bulging eyes (exophthalmos)
  • Changes in menstrual cycles
  • Difficulty sleeping

2. Hypothyroidism

Another type of condition is hypothyroidism which occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. This condition is more common in women and people over 50.

Some of the symptoms of this condition develop slowly and may include:

  • Weight gain
  • Swollen face
  • Fertility problems in women
  • Slow heart rate
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Dry skin and weak or brittle hair
  • Depression

3. Goiter or Enlarged Thyroid Gland

An enlarged thyroid, also known as a goiter, may develop as a result of iodine deficiency, inflammation of the thyroid gland or certain medications.

“If you notice neck swelling or have symptoms such as changes in your voice, cough, and difficulty swallowing or breathing, and a feeling of pressure, contact your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment options”, said Karen Thrift, APRN, specialized in Endocrinology, from Baptist Health Adult Medicine Specialists-Fort Smith.

4. Thyroid Cancer

There are several types of thyroid cancer. Depending on each case, some cancers may not cause symptoms.

  • Papillary Thyroid Cancer (Carcinoma): It is one of the most common forms of cancer, and it spreads in the lymph nodes. Papillary thyroid cancer is asymptomatic at first, but some people may notice and feel a palpable mass.
  • Follicular Thyroid Cancer: Compared to papillary cancer, this type of cancer is more aggressive and can even spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. 
  • Medullary Thyroid Cancer: This type of cancer can spread through the lymph nodes and to other organs. This cancer is likely to run in families.
  • Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer: This type is less common, but occurs aggressively with a low chance of cure. 

Most thyroid cancers rarely become aggressive and cause death. Early detection is best to cure thyroid cancer and extend a person’s life. Even for those with a late-stage diagnosis, there is still a high cure rate.

Learn more about the signs that you may have a problem with your thyroid.

Risk Factors

Some people are more likely to develop diseases related to the thyroid gland. The factors that influence your risk are genes, having an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease, lifestyle factors, smoking, psychological stress, and some medications that contain lithium iodine.

When You Should See Your Doctor

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, make an appointment with one of our Baptist Health primary providers or specialists to see if your symptoms are thyroid-related.

Getting tested and ruling out the odds is the first step in taking care of your health. Treatment for each thyroid condition will depend on the type of problem you may have.