The thyroid hormone regulates vital functions including heart rate, breathing, body weight, temperature, digestion, and muscle function and strength. People with increased and decreased levels are known as hyperthyroid and hypothyroid respectively. Read more to learn about the risk factors that can lead to developing hypo or hyperthyroidism.
Increased levels of thyroid hormone increases the functions that it controls including increased body temperature, excessive sweating, increased heart rate (palpitations), irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), unexplained weight loss (due to increased metabolism), anxiety, tremors of the hands, increased bowel movements, and hair loss. The thyroid gland would appear swollen in the front of the neck.
Causes and Risk Factors for Hyperthyroidism
- Gender and age: Women over 50 are generally at greater risk of developing hyperthyroidism than men.
- Family history: The risk of hyperthyroidism is further increased with a family history of Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism.
- Graves’ disease: The most common factor for developing hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease. It is common in people with weakened immune systems and those who have other autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodule: For reasons not established, the thyroid gland can develop tumors which can cause excessive production of thyroid hormone. It can also hyperfunction if there is an overactive pituitary gland which controls the thyroid.
- Thyroiditis: This can happen in people post infections. The thyroid gland can get inflamed due to pregnancy or after general infections and produce more thyroid hormone leading to hyperthyroidism.
- Topography: Iodine is an essential element for producing thyroid hormone, and the concentration of iodine is higher in some areas, leading to widespread hyperthyroidism in the population.
- Food: Some foods are rich in iodine and regular consumption can lead to increased production of thyroid. Seafood is generally rich in iodine, and people who consume seafood regularly can be more prone to hyperthyroid.
- Medications: Some medications like cough syrup and herbal supplements contain iodine and may lead to hyperthyroidism. Supplements are only to be used if required and recommended medically.
This condition is more common and causes the exact opposite symptoms including increased sensitivity to cold, weight gain, constipation, reduced energy levels, inability to conceive, and depression.
Causes and Risk Factors for Hypothyroidism
- Gender and age: Women over 50 years of age are more prone to develop hypothyroidism.
- Topography: Some areas are naturally known for low iodine content in the soil and water, and people in these areas can have what is called endemic goiter.
- Family history: Those with either hypothyroidism or autoimmune disorders in the family have more chances of developing hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
- Thyroid medical history: History of radiation to the head or neck or chest can lower production by the thyroid gland. Over-treatment of hyperthyroidism with either surgery or medications could also lead to hypothyroidism.
- Pituitary disorders: Any problem with the master gland pituitary can affect all other hormone production, including thyroid.
Given these risk factors, it is advisable to watch for symptoms to help in early diagnosis, which can improve prognosis.
Also Read 7 Common Myths About Thyroid Disease