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Thyroid diseases

Underactive and overactive thyroid diseases are very common. You can find out here how they differ, how they are recognised, and how they are treated.

Thyroid diseases: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

The thyroid is a hormone gland. It releases thyroxine and triiodothyronine, hormones that regulate metabolism. The thyroid regulates several important functions of the body. These function are impaired in people suffering from thyroid disease. A distinction is made between an underactive and overactive thyroid. One third of the German population has symptoms that are caused by these disorders. However, numerous highly effective treatment options are available to patients today.

How to recognise thyroid disease

Underactive thyroid function is usually the consequence of a destruction of previously functional thyroid tissue. Iodine deficiency is often responsible too. The consequence is that the metabolism slows down to a crawl. People with underactive thyroid function get cold easily, are tired and lack drive, have memory and concentration problems, oedema, dry and often pale, yellowish skin, and gain weight even though their eating habits have not changed.  

In contrast, overactive thyroid function is the consequence of thyroid dysregulation. It produces too much thyroid hormone, leading to an excess. The metabolism accordingly revs up. Possible symptoms include:

•    Increased sweating
•    Intolerance to heat
•    Racing heart
•    Fast, irregular pulse
•    Nervousness
•    Restlessness
•    Inner tension
•    Weak physical performance
•    Concentration weakness
•    Diarrhoea-like stools
•    Excessive thirst
•    Weight loss despite a healthy appetite

How thyroid diseases are treated

Certain medication can slow down the overactive thyroid that produces too much hormone. These medicines, so-called thyroid blockers (thyreostatic), slow down the production of thyroid hormone or stop it altogether. The hormone concentration in the blood normalises and symptoms improve.

An underactive thyroid does not produce enough of its own thyroid hormone (thyroxine), which is why it must be replaced by tablets containing an active substance corresponding to the body's own hormone. Treatment gradually normalises and the metabolism and symptoms improve. It is important that patients take the tablets regularly so that the body always has enough thyroxine at its disposal. With rare exceptions, patients with underactive thyroid function will have to rely on taking the pills for the rest of their lives.

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