The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of the neck, just below Adam’s apple. It releases thyroid hormones, that control the growth and metabolism of basically every part of your body.
Hypothyroidism, also called low or underactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain crucial hormones.
About one in 300 people in the United States has hypothyroidism, according to data derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Women are 5 to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
Perhaps the most stunning statistics are that up to 60% of people with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.
Hypothyroidism signs and symptoms may include:
- thinning hair;
- increased sensitivity to cold;
- depression (16.2 million American adults have experienced a major depressive episode in the past 12 months);
- dry skin;
- enlarged thyroid gland (goiter);
- weight gain;
- impaired memory;
- puffy face;
- slowed heart rate;
- irregular menstrual periods (for women);
- stiffness, pain, or swelling in your joints;
- muscle weakness;
- muscle tenderness, aches, and stiffness;
- elevated blood cholesterol levels.
Symptoms in infants include the following:
- constant sleepiness;
- recurrent choking;
- puffy skin;
- yellowed whites of eyes or skin;
- growth abnormalities.
An underactive thyroid can cause a range of complications, including:
- premature birth;
- heart disease;
- myxedema (a boggy swelling of the skin and subcutaneous tissue that results from the deposition of mucin);
- congenital disabilities;
- nerve damage causing numbness, tingling, and pain in the arms, legs, or other affected areas.
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Causes of an underactive thyroid include:
- an underlying pituitary gland problem;
- having undergone thyroid surgery;
- taking a medication like lithium;
- inflammation in the thyroid from autoimmune disease (for example, rheumatoid arthritis, adrenal insufficiency, or type 1 diabetes).
Factors which increase a person’s risk of developing an underactive thyroid include:
- being treated with certain medications;
- being female;
- underwent thyroid surgery;
- being of older age;
- received radiation to the upper chest or neck;
- being Asian or Caucasian;
- treated with radioactive iodine;
- too much or too little iodine intake;
- being pregnant or postpartum;
- having a personal history of autoimmune disease;
- having a family history of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is slowly destroyed).
The standard treatment is thyroid hormone replacement therapy with levothyroxine.
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine.
An estimated 1.2% of people in the United States have an overactive thyroid.
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The condition can also involve a wide variety of symptoms, including:
- fine, brittle hair;
- unintentional weight loss, even when your food intake stays the same;
- skin thinning;
- rapid heartbeat (more than 100 beats per minute);
- difficulty sleeping;
- irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia);
- muscle weakness;
- pounding heart (palpitations);
- increased appetite;
- an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), that may appear as a swelling at the base of the neck;
- changes in bowel patterns, particularly more often bowel movements;
- increased sensitivity to heat;
- changes in menstrual patterns;
- excessive sweating;
- tremor — typically a fine trembling in your fingers and hands;
An overactive thyroid can lead to a number of problems, including:
- thyrotoxic crisis (a life-threatening, hypermetabolic state induced by excessive release of thyroid hormones);
- red, swollen skin — occurring commonly on the feet and shins;
- brittle bones (osteoporosis);
- heart failure;
- problems with heart rhythm;
- blurred or double vision;
- rapid heart rate;
- bulging eyes.
Causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- large amounts of tetraiodothyronine taken through medication or dietary supplements;
- Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid);
- benign tumors of the pituitary or thyroid gland;
- tumors of the testes or ovaries;
- thyroiditis (a general term which refers to “inflammation of the thyroid gland”) which causes T3 and T4 to leak out of the gland;
- excess iodine.
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Risk factors associated with an overactive thyroid include:
- very high or very low iodine intake;
- age – onset of Graves’ disease typically occurs between 20-25 years of age;
- gender – females are at higher risk than males;
- smoking tobacco and second-hand smoking;
- a family history of Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid).
The treatment of an overactive thyroid includes:
- the use of anti-thyroid medications, like – methimazole and propylthiouracil;
- surgery to remove the thyroid gland;
- radioactive iodine to destroy the gland;
- administration of beta-blockers to control the symptoms.
Spiritual Meaning of Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism (Yang) and hypothyroidism (Yin) are often signs of an inability to say or do what we want.
No one can understand us, we do not have the means to make sense of what we think, we’re afraid that what we say will not be accepted by others, we’re afraid of the force or violence of what we might say.
Behind this reservedness, there is always a notion of risk, of danger, which stops us, it holds us back from expressing ourselves.
The Yang form (hyperthyroidism) involves a desire for revenge. This individual is always on the move. The inner fire consumes him and the struggle is permanent.
Physically, people affected by hyperthyroidism seem to be devoured by this inner fire. But the fire and the struggle consume without producing because the only output is reactive and defensive but non-productive.
In other words: we do more and more but not better!
The Yin form (hypothyroidism) expresses an abandonment in the face of the impossibility of self-expression. The flame within goes out.
The vital dynamics, found in excess in hyperthyroidism, is now insufficient. The body no longer burns and, therefore, it stores. Its volume increases to compensate for the inadequate expression.
Frequent nodules come to mark emotions, desires, lusts, or suppressed frustrations, and their occurrence provides extra information about their hidden meaning.
Images credit – Shutterstock
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