NIDDK Publishes Fact Sheets About Thyroid Disorders

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Thyroid problems affect as many as 27 million Americans. Among the most common problems are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. To help people learn more about thyroid disorders, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has produced four new fact sheets for consumers and health care providers.

The thyroid, a two-inch-long, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck, produces two hormones that affect critical body functions, including metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight, and cholesterol levels. When the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormone than the body needs, a condition known as hyperthyroidism develops. Conversely, hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces inadequate amounts of hormone.

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* Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. These two fact sheets explain the causes, symptoms and risk factors for these opposite conditions, as well as diagnosis and treatment.

* Graves' Disease. A related fact sheet entitled Graves' Disease provides information about this autoimmune disorder, which is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. People with other autoimmune diseases — such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and vitiligo, a disorder in which some parts of the skin are not pigmented — have an increased chance of developing Graves' disease.

* Pregnancy and Thyroid Disease. This fact sheet addresses how pregnancy affects thyroid function, the causes of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism in pregnancy, and how thyroid disease affects mother and baby. One condition that develops after pregnancy is postpartum thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland that appears 1 month to 8 months after giving birth. Thyroiditis can cause stored thyroid hormone to leak out of the inflamed gland and raise hormone levels in the blood. The condition causes a brief period of hyperthyroidism, often followed by hypothyroidism that usually lasts less than a year before the thyroid heals. However, in about one in five women, the hypothyroidism is permanent.

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