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Focus on the thyroid gland - facts about functional disorders

KD Dr. med. Gurpreet Anand

KD Dr. med. Gurpreet Anand

September 7, 2023

reading time

10 min

KD Dr Gurpreet Anand, Head of Endocrinology at the Department of Internal Medicine, provides insights into hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Mrs Anand, as an endocrinologist, you deal with diseases of the hormone-producing glands. Why is the thyroid gland needed?

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck in front of the larynx in the centre of the neck. The thyroid gland produces two main hormones that are important for many bodily functions: 80 per cent thyroxine (T4) and 20 per cent triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are produced from iodine and amino acids. Thyroxine (T4) is the inactive hormone that is converted into the active hormone triiodothyronine (T3) in the liver. Most of the hormones circulate in the blood in bound form (T4 and T3). The amount of free hormones (fT3 and fT4) is significantly lower than the amount of the bound form T4 and T3. The free hormones regulate the metabolism by stimulating the cells to produce energy. They also have an effect on growth and development, the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, reproduction, bones and the immune system.

What is the difference between an overactive and underactive thyroid (hyper- or hypothyroidism)?

  • An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too many hormones. The symptoms are Nervousness, palpitations, weight loss, diarrhoea, sweating, trembling, insomnia and irritability.
  • An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), on the other hand, is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too few hormones. The symptoms are Tiredness, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, hair loss and concentration problems.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can be treated with medication. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. In certain cases of hyperthyroidism, radioiodine therapy can also be considered as an alternative option.

Can the thyroid gland be to blame for severe mood swings or depressive moods?

Yes, thyroid disease can lead to mood swings and depressive moods. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body's metabolism, growth and development. When the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, it can lead to a variety of symptoms. Here is some additional information about the effects of thyroid disease on mood:

  • Hyperthyroidism can lead to nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, irritability and depressed moods.
  • An underactive thyroid can lead to tiredness, sluggishness, concentration problems, irritability and depressive moods.

A thyroid disorder can also lead to other symptoms such as weight gain or loss, hair loss, dry skin and muscle pain.

If you suffer from thyroid disease or experience the symptoms mentioned above, it is important that you seek medical advice and treatment. Treatment of thyroid disease can alleviate the symptoms and improve your quality of life.

What happens after the thyroidectomy? Should I expect to gain weight?

Weight gain often occurs after a thyroidectomy. This is because the thyroid gland produces hormones that stimulate the metabolism. When the thyroid gland is removed, the metabolism decreases and the body begins to put on weight.

The extent of weight gain after a thyroidectomy varies from person to person. Some people only gain a few kilograms, while others gain up to 8 kg or more. Weight gain usually occurs in the first few months after surgery and can continue over a period of several years.

There are some things you can do to prevent or reduce weight gain after a thyroidectomy. These include:

  • A healthy, varied diet with vegetables, fruit and wholemeal products, low consumption of processed products
  • Regular exercise
  • Taking thyroid hormones in the correct dosage

If you gain weight after a thyroidectomy, it is important that you talk to your doctor about it. They can help you determine the cause of the weight gain and take measures to correct it.

I suffer from hair loss. Could my thyroid disease be to blame?

Hair loss is a common symptom of thyroid disease. If the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, this can lead to a variety of symptoms, including hair loss. Your doctor should record any troublesome symptoms through detailed questioning.

Interestingly, hair loss can be caused by both overactive (hyperthyroidism) and underactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid glands. Hyperthyroidism can trigger hair loss because it boosts the metabolism. This can cause hair to grow and fall out more quickly. Hypothyroidism can also cause hair loss because it slows down the metabolism. This can lead to hair becoming thinner and more brittle and falling out more easily.

If you suffer from hair loss and suspect that this is due to a thyroid disorder, you should consult your doctor. They can examine the function of your thyroid gland and prescribe treatment if necessary.

Here is some additional information about thyroid disease and hair loss:

  • While hair loss is a common symptom of thyroid disease, not all sufferers experience it.
  • The severity of hair loss varies from person to person. Some people only lose a few hairs, while others lose a large amount of hair.
  • Hair loss in thyroid disorders is usually reversible. If the thyroid disorder is treated, the hair usually grows back.

Here is an important note on biotin (contained in many hair loss medications): If you are taking biotin for hair loss, biotin can interfere with the determination of thyroid hormones in the blood. It is important that you inform your doctor that you are taking biotin. It is best to stop taking biotin for 24 to 48 hours before a thyroid scan.

Portrait photo of KD Dr Gurpreet Anand

KD Dr. med. Gurpreet Anand

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