The thyroid gland is one of the most important glands of the endocrine system. Located in our neck, just in front of the cartilage of the larynx, consists of two lobes, left and right, which are connected by the isthmus.
The thyroid gland produces three main hormones, thyroxin (T4), the triiodothyronin (T3) and calcitonin. Calcitonin plays an important role in the regulation of calcium in our body. It is also prescribed in women after menopause to treat osteoporosis.
Main diseases of the thyroid: hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, inflammation of thyroid, nodules (small lumps) and thyroid cancer.
In this case the gland is “hyperactive”, which means that it excretes more hormones than normal. Hyperthyroidism can be caused by the development of nodules (small tumors)on the gland, or other causes, such as a viral infection or use of iodinated products. Main symptoms are fatigue without apparent cause, weakness, weight loss, palpitations, arrhythmias, difficulty sleeping, irritability, or difficulty in swallowing. If hyperthyroidism is not checked regularly it could lead to osteoporosis, or eye pressure.
In the case of hypothyroidism we experience the exact opposite of Hyperthyroidism, ie the gland has a reduced hormone production. In this case we may see problems in the mental alertness of the person or in his bodily strength. An increase of weight, fatigue, muscular weakness or cramps may occur, whereas in advanced hypothyroidism the face appears pale. Puffy eyelids and hair loss may be observed, an irregular cycle, hypercholesterolemia or hyponatremia.
Goiter - Thyroid nodes
The goiter is swelling of the gland itself. Sometimes it is associated with many of the above, but this is not necessary. The goiter is more about the anatomy of the gland itself (size) rather than its function. In fact, when the pressure of the gland to the trachea is high enough, the patient will have to visit a specialist for evaluation and treatment, depending on the size of the problem. There is also the case of small lumps, known as "nodes” appearing in the thyroid gland. In that case, close monitoring and possibly puncture of the suspicious nodules must be performed.
In the last decades there has been a significant increase of thyroid cancer cases. This increase is likely due to either environmental factors or to better and faster detection of small tumors, which previously were unnoticed. Thyroid cancer usually appears as a nodule or a mass, but does not necessarily cause pain. The thyroid nodules are frequent in general population, but only 5-10% are malignant. In most thyroid cancer cases, when the diagnosis is early, they can be treated easily and in full recovery with surgery.
There are four types of thyroid cancer:
The papillary carcinoma: the most common type and perhaps with the best prognosis. The cure rates are very high.
The follicular carcinoma: much more rare type of cancer. This type also has a good prognosis, but unfortunately not as much as the papillary carcinoma.
Medullary carcinoma: refers to cells of the thyroid gland that produce thyrocalcitonin. It usually has moderate prognosis. In some cases it can co-exist with other forms of cancer.
The anaplastic carcinoma: it consists only 3% of all thyroid carcinomas and is probably the type with the weaker prognosis. Usually, it appears at the age 65 or later.