Thyroid Diseases

thyroid superimposed on woman's neck.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck just above the collar bones. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid secretes hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate, which controls heart, muscle and digestive function, brain development, and bone maintenance.

Thyroid disease/dysfunction occurs when the thyroid is not producing the correct amount of thyroid hormone. This can cause wide-ranging disruptions in the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis.

Types of Thyroid Disease

There are two main categories of thyroid disease, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.


Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid makes too much hormone. When your thyroid produces too much hormone, it can cause your heart to beat faster and cause a variety of symptoms.


Hypothyroidism is a condition when the thyroid produces too little hormone.  When your thyroid produces too little hormone, it can also cause an assortment of symptoms like fatigue and weight gain.

Both of these conditions range from harmless to life-threatening as both types affect the metabolic processes of your body.

metabolism diagram

Symptoms of Thyroid Disease

There are many different symptoms you could experience with a thyroid disease.  Because the symptoms are common among other medical conditions, an accurate diagnosis may be tricky.

While symptoms may vary, the most common ones include:


  • Anxiety/Irritability
  • Brittle Hair/Nails
  • Bulging Eyes
  • Hair Loss
  • Heat Sensitivity
  • Hyperactivity/Nervousness
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Tremors/Shaky Hands
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Wight Loss


  • Constipation
  • Cool Skin/Cold Intolerance
  • Decrease of Energy
  • Depression
  • Dry Hair
  • Dry Skin
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy/Fatigue
  • Memory Problems
  • Slow Heart Rate
  • Weight Gain

Thyroid Growths/Cancer

  • Enlarged Thyroid
  • Lump on Thyroid
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Trouble Swallowing
  • Hoarseness/Voice Change
  • Firm, Hard Areas in the Neck

Causes of Thyroid Disease

Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can be caused by a variety of conditions.  They may be either acquired or they may be inherited.  Inherited conditions are apparent at birth and are thus classified as a congenital condition.


The most common causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Cancerous growth: Cancerous growths develop in the thyroid gland and cause irregular hormone secretion and hormone imbalance.  
  • Excessive iodine:  Exposure to certain cold or heart medications that include iodine may cause this condition as well as direct exposure to iodine.
  • Graves’ disease:  A situation when the thyroid produces too much hormone on its own.
  • Pituitary gland disorder:  When the pituitary gland malfunctions causing an erratic release of hormones.   
  • Subacute thyroiditis: A situation when an inflammation of the thyroid causes excess hormone secretion.  
  • Toxic adenomas: When an abnormal tissue growth develops in the thyroid gland, it may cause an irregular hormone secretion and a hormone imbalance.

In the list above, Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. 

disorder of thyroid gland diagram.


Like hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism can also occur in a variety of ways.  The most common causes include:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:  This is an autoimmune disorder which means your body attacks its own thyroid, causing it to die and thus ceases hormone production.
  • Iodine deficiency:  When the body inherently does not produce enough iodine.
  • Lithium:  Specifically taking this prescription drug.
  • Non-functioning thyroid:  When the thyroid does not work correctly from birth.
  • Thyroiditis:  When an inflammation of the thyroid gland reduces hormone production.
  • Thyroid removal:  When the thyroid is surgically removed or chemically destroyed.

In the list above, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.

Diagnosis and Treatment

doctor checking a patient's thyroid.Diagnosis

For both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, the first step in the diagnosis is a physical examination, which will include a medical and family history review along with blood tests.  As necessary, other laboratory tests may be ordered.


The treatments for both types of conditions will greatly depend on the results of the examination and test reports.  Treatments may be as easy as a medication adjustment or as significant as surgery.

Every individual is unique and only through the expertise of qualified endocrine specialists, like the doctors at Rocky Mountain Diabetes center, can the most effective treatments be determined for you.

Endocrinology Specialists

The doctors at Rocky Mountain Diabetes Center are endocrinology experts and highly trained to identify and effectively treat thyroid conditions.

If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the symptoms or conditions above, call Rocky Mountain Diabetes for an appointment, or fill out the form below.

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