The Butterfly Gland

Dog Dressed as Butterfly
In the general population:

 

• 50% of people have microscopic nodules

• 3.5% have papillary thyroid cancer

• 15% have enlarged thyroid glands – goitres

• 10% have abnormal thyroid function tests

 

• 6-8% have hypothyroidism

• 2-3% have hyperthyroidism

• 1 in 3,500 newborns are diagnosed with congenital thyroid disease

The Butterfly Effect
 
 
Introduction

 

The Thyroid gland has a profound effect upon the human body! This small butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck is responsible for the speed of all metabolic processes, in virtually every cell, tissue and organ throughout the body. If a person wants to live a vibrant, healthy life, then the thyroid gland needs to function at it’s optimal level. If the thyroid gland begins to malfunction for any reason, the body will soon follow suit, and the signs and symptoms of ill health will appear.

Can you relate to some of the following conditions:

    • Enlarged thyroid gland

    • Fatigue and exhaustion

    • Poor memory and concentration

    • Feeling extremely cold or hot (especially hands and feet)

    • Constipation or diarrhoea

    • Weight gain or weight loss

    • Fluid retention and swelling

    • Dry hair and brittle nails

    • Hair Loss and thinning eye brows

    • Headaches/migraines

    • Depression, anxiety or mood swings

    • Racing thoughts and confusion

    • Dry, coarse skin, or sweaty hands

    • Sore throat, and difficulty swallowing

    • Heart palpitations, atrial fibrillation 

    • Chest pain or breathlessness

    • Slow, or fast pulse

    • Dizziness, or faintness

    • Muscle weakness, spasms and cramping

    • Irregular, painful periods and ovulation

    • Severe PMS 

    • Decreased or increased libido

    • Increased infections, candida

    • Blood pressure changes (high or low) 

    • Digestive disturbances, or IBS  

    • High cholesterol 

    • Deepening, hoarse voice, or lump in throat

    • Enlarged tongue

 

Although many of the above symptoms can be associated with a variety of illnesses and diseases, they can also be attributed to a malfunctioning thyroid gland. The list of thyroid-related health problems is long and can be overwhelming, but please keep in mind that not everyone will have all of the above symptoms, but rather, a cluster of symptoms that may be indicative of an under-functioning or over-functioning gland. Every individual is unique, and will present with their own symptom picture.

 

On the positive side, thyroid conditions are treatable, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. A patient and doctor can work together in managing, treating and resolving thyroid issues, and life will be worth living again.

Why is the thyroid gland so important?

The importance of the thyroid gland to human health has been known by western doctors for many years, and yet it is probably one of the most overlooked factors in a great number of health problems that plague the 21st century. Hypothyroidism, a deficiency of thyroid hormones, has been implicated in the development of heart disease, obesity, depression, chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, digestive disturbances and skin disorders. Hyperthyroidism, an excess of thyroid hormones, has been associated in the development of atrial fibrillation and cardiac failure, hypertension, muscle and joint degeneration, insomnia, anxiety and depressive disorders, migraines and IBS. A poorly functioning, or erratic thyroid can also be a contributing factor to a number of women’s health problems, such as menstrual cycle irregularities, severe PMS and painful periods, reoccurring infections, infertility and miscarriages, and encourage the development of uterine fibroids , ovarian cysts, and endometriosis. Hypothyroidism can lead to elevated blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, weight gain and abnormally low or high blood pressure, thus further increasing the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The thyroid gland’s role in all aspects of healthy body functioning is paramount and therefore it needs to be taken seriously.

 

In Australia the average person knows little about thyroid disorders and their detrimental affects upon health. Many Australians suffer with thyroid hormone imbalances without even realizing it. Some are affected more significantly than others, and go from one health professional to another seeking answers for their long list of complaints. Hundreds and thousands of dollars are spent unnecessarily on specialists, treatments and medications, all in a hope to restore health and well-being. Unfortunately, the underlying hidden cause is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, and the person’s health continues to decline. Much heartache, confusion and pain could have been spared if a person’s thyroid condition was recognized early, tested for thoroughly and treated appropriately by someone with an observant eye, a listening ear and a compassionate heart.

 

Too often it is assumed that thyroid problems are easy to diagnose and easy to treat, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Lack of understanding, knowledge and education in thyroid related conditions appears to be a major problem, and many thyroid sufferers remain undiagnosed. More often than not, a psychiatric diagnosis is made and antidepressants are given which only further mask the real underlying problems.

 

Conventional laboratory blood testing may also be insufficient in picking up mild thyroid underactivity. Blood hormone reference ranges are rather broad and test results are often poorly interpreted. Many thyroid sufferers have felt that too much emphasis has been placed on blood test results alone, and not enough attention given to the type of symptoms they are presenting with. When a person is finally diagnosed and treatment has begun, many are poorly monitored and not given adequate information. Patients have felt quite confused and ill equipped to deal with their thyroid related problems and voice their concern about continued problems even after treatment has begun.

 

If you are suffering with either hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), or hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), have a family history of thyroid problems, or simply suspect that something is not right with your thyroid function, then arming yourself with as much information as possible is vital. This will help you better understand your own condition, and the thyroid gland's important role in the healthy functioning of your body. Once being correctly diagnosed, and a personalised treatment protocol is in place, you will be equipped to take control of your thyroid disorder and regain your life again.

Statistics

It is estimated that around 1 in 10 Australians suffer with a thyroid condition. Over the years only small studies have been conducted into incidence and prevalence rates for thyroid disease in Australia. The 1995 National Health survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that only 4% of women indicated that they had a thyroid disorder. Unfortunately this survey was not a controlled study taking a large unbiased sample of the population and testing for the evidence of thyroid disease. Controlled studies in other countries have produced results that are more reliable and probably closer to the prevalence rates in Australia.

Thyroid disorders can occur at any age, but increase in frequency after the age of 50. The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid gland. About 8% of women have this condition, with close to 30% being afflicted after the age of 60. Approximately, 1.5% of men suffer with hypothyroidism.

 

The second most common thyroid condition is hyperthyroidism– an overactive thyroid gland. Approximately 2-3% of women and 0.25% of men suffer with this condition. Other thyroid conditions, which are less common, include thyroid cancer, thyroid nodules and congenital thyroid disease.

Overall,  when you consider these numbers, and that many Australians remain undiagnosed, and others misdiagnosed, thyroid conditions are extremely common. Therefore, the need for greater awareness, education and understanding in this area is vital. 

© 2000 by Robyn Koumourou

Thyroid Disorders | ThyroidMatters

Updated 2020

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