- There are four basic types of thyroid disease. Hyperthyroidism is classified as a surplus of thyroid hormones. Conversely, hypothyroidism is classified as a lack of thyroid hormones. Thyroid cancer is classified as the abnormal growth of cells in the thyroid glands, often resulting in tumors. Lastly, benign thyroid disease takes the form of non-cancerous growths in the thyroid glands, such as goiters or nodules.
- Thyroid diseases are usually accompanied by symptoms like increased appetite, tremors of the hands, nervousness, fatigue, sensitivity to heat, changes to menstrual patterns, sudden weight loss, rapid heartbeat and swelling at the base of the neck (indicative of growth in the thyroid glands).
If you experience any of these symptoms in conjunction with one another, consult a doctor or medical professional immediately. Depending on the cause, a doctor may suggest one of several treatments. Radioactive iodine can be taken orally over the course of three to six months to reduce swelling in the thyroid glands. Surgery is often administered to remove the thyroid glands or goiters. Some individuals opt for surgery if they cannot handle radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid drugs. However, surgery holds the risk of damaging the vocal cords, so consider this before resorting to surgery. If you develop thyroid cancer, a doctor will likely have to remove the affected gland using surgery. Radioactive iodine (rather than chemotherapy) is administered to patients for several months post-surgery.
Do not wait to consult a doctor if you experience swelling in your neck or eyes or are aware of the presence of a goiter. Goiters may not be cancerous, but they can release toxins into the glands that may overbalance or decrease the level of hormones. This can lead to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
- Proper diet regulation can help reduce your chances of developing thyroid disease. The American Cancer Society recommends that you consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day if you want to lower your risk of thyroid disease. Foods high in antioxidants and low in saturated fat should make up the rest of your diet. Emphasize foods that contain unsaturated fats like omega-3 (found in salmon and other fish).
If you received radiation therapy to the head or neck during childhood, have a doctor examine your thyroid glands at least once every one to two years. Radiation therapy increases your risk of thyroid cancer.