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Thyroid disorders: definition, causes and course of disease

The thyroid gland is a relatively small and inconspicuous organ, but controls our entire metabolism and is therefore very important to our health. The thyroid is located under the larynx and forms the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. With these messenger substances the thyroid directs almost all important bodily functions such as the entire metabolism and the heat production. The thyroid controls the heart and circulation, stomach and intestines, nerves and muscles, the growth of skin, hair and nails. To make these important hormones, the thyroid needs the trace mineral iodine. But in Germany there is too little iodine in the soil, so too little in the food and drinking water. One speaks of an iodine deficiency area. Common Episode: The thyroid gland builds extra tissue over time so it can still produce enough hormones. Over 50 percent of Germans have an enlarged thyroid, also called goiter. Regardless of this, a so-called subfunction can also arise. The cause for this is usually a chronic inflammation. The body's immune system mistakenly attacks tissue in the thyroid gland, which triggers the inflammation. About 10 percent of women are affected. The gland is then usually reduced in size and forms too few hormones: the body can no longer properly utilize sugar, protein and fat. Therefore, the metabolism is on a low flame. At the latest from 40, every woman should make sure that the thyroid is really well.

Signs of enlargement of the thyroid may be a feeling of pressure in the throat or discomfort on swallowing. The thyroid usually forms enough metabolic hormones. Nevertheless, one should go to the family doctor to clarify whether the cause is a goiter. An enlargement of the thyroid can restrict the trachea and make breathing difficult. Frequently, a goiter also produces knots. So-called hot knots are very active, they make up a lot of the hormones. This can lead to thyroid hyperfunction. Consequence: The metabolism is then constantly running at full speed. Affected are restless, irritable, nervous and unfocused. Many perspire heavily, lose weight, get sleep problems and heart problems. So-called cold nodules in the thyroid gland can in rare cases become cancerous. Your doctor should also feel the thyroid gland even if you are often tired or listless and freeze extremely easily. Frequent cold or constipation as well as dry skin and hair can also be warning signs. In some cases, the facial skin is thickened dough and / or swollen eyelids. The pulse can be slow, the voice rough. Or you gain weight, although you pay attention to healthy food and also moves a lot. All of this may indicate a hypofunction. These symptoms are often mistaken for first signs of aging or menopausal symptoms.

Treatment of thyroid disorders

If a thyroid disorder is suspected, the family doctor will refer you to an internist or endocrinologist (hormone expert). The specialists examine the thyroid gland very precisely, for example by ultrasound or with the aid of a special camera and a contrast agent that is injected (scintigraphy). At a thyroid enlargement, the doctor has found a goiter and determines the individual therapy. In the early stages you can easily treat the thyroid with iodide tablets. If this is no longer enough, you replace the hormone thyroxine. Patients usually take it lifelong as tablets.

It is important that the doctor finds the right dose and regularly checks. So you can slow the growth of the thyroid gland. A goiter or hot knots can also be treated in specialized clinics with so-called radioiodine. It accumulates in the overactive tissue and destroys it. Sometimes an operation is necessary. Even if the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones (with hypothyroidism), the doctor treats this disorder with tablets. The drugs replace the missing thyroxine.

Prevention and self-help in diseases of the thyroid gland

Much iodine is the best prevention for thyroid disease. For optimal metabolism, the thyroid gland needs 200 micrograms (millionth of a gram, acronym: μg) of iodine daily. An adequate supply is ensured by seasoning healthy. For cooking and seasoning you should always take iodized table salt. When buying food, make sure that iodine is on the ingredient list of labels. Most iodine is supplied by sea fish such as haddock (240 μg per 100 g) and cod (170 μg) and shrimp (130 μg). One should eat sea fish or seafood once or twice a week. Milk and dairy products such as yogurt, quark, kefir or cream cheese are also good suppliers of iodine. Important for menopausal women: You should also take iodide tablets (pharmacy). The dosage is determined by the family doctor or gynecologist. Additional iodine may also be important at other times of a clear hormone change, because the need is then usually increased. The doctor may recommend iodide tablets at the right dosage during puberty, pregnancy and lactation.

The quick test for the home:

  • 1. Familiarize

First, you should sensitize your sense of touch to the delicate elevations and depressions on the neck. To get a feel for it, put the index, middle finger and thumb tip right under the larynx. There sits the thyroid gland. Touch the place in peace.

  • 2. Prepare

For the test you need a glass of water and a mirror. Take a long drink of water, keep it in your mouth. Tilt your head back slightly. Keep your neck in the mirror. Put your fingers back on the thyroid gland with very light pressure.

  • 3. Watch and feel

Now you swallow the water. Do you see or notice noticeable swelling of the thyroid gland or small nodules protruding under the larynx while swallowing? This indicates an enlargement of the thyroid gland, the family doctor should examine it carefully as a precaution.