To be able to prevent a disease from happening, it is important to first understand it. And the most important thing to know and understand is the root cause of a disease. What caused this disease in the first place? What experiences or situations did the person do that ultimately led to this disease infecting that person? Once this is understood, it will be easier to prevent that disease from doing any harm to the person.
In the case of thyroid diseases, it’s more important to know the root cause of these diseases because the symptoms that they show are usually associated with different diseases or conditions. Now the causes for thyroid problems vary per disease. Some are caused by other thyroid diseases, some are caused by treatment or medication, some are because of a deficiency or an excess of certain nutrients in the body and there are others that are hereditary.
Take Hashimoto’s Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune disease wherein your immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The root cause of this disease is unknown, but doctors and scientists identify several factors that may have caused this disease. The two most common causes for this disease is believed to be a genetic flaw and gender. It is believed that genes play a role in a person developing Hashimoto’s Disease, scientists though have yet to identify what gene or genes are prone to this disease. Gender make-up is also believed to play a role as women are more susceptible to develop this disease than men (pregnancy is also believed to be a major factor for developing this disease). Other causes are believed to be iodine deficiency and radiation exposure.
Just like Hashimoto’s Disease, the underlying cause of Graves’ Disease are also unknown. It is believed that genes and gender play a major role in causing Graves’ Disease. Women also have greater risk in developing this disease than men, especially pregnant women. Other factors believed to cause Graves’ Disease are stress and infection. Stress and infection might trigger the onset of the disease to people who are prone to getting them but there are no studies that directly link them to the cause of the disease.
It is important to take note of this two diseases as they are the two common causes of most, if not all, of thyroid problems.
One thyroid problem that can be attributed to these two disease is Thyroiditis. Thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland. The most common cause for inflammation in the thyroid is autoimmune disease. In this disease, the immune system malfunctions, causing the antibodies to attack the thyroid gland. Virus and bacteria can also cause Thyroiditis as certain bacteria and virus attack the thyroid gland directly. Certain drugs such as interferon and amiodarone also cause Thyroiditis because they have the tendency to damage thyroid cells.
Like thyroiditis, Hypothyroidism is also caused by autoimmune disease, particularly the Hashimoto’s Disease. The damage that the disease causes to the thyroid gland affects the ability of the gland to produce hormones. Autoimmune disease is just one of the causes for Hypothyroidism, there are other factors that cause this conditions and these are:
- Treatment for Hyperthyroidism – Having an overactive thyroid is usually treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications. There are cases however where the treatment for hyperthyroidism caused permanent hypothyroidism.
- Radiation Treatment – Treating cancer with radiation in the neck and head can sometimes affect your thyroid and cause hypothyroidism
- Thyroid Surgery – Removing parts or all of your thyroid gland will affect hormone production. It will usually require you to take thyroid hormone medications.
- Medications – Certain drugs can cause hypothyroidism like lithium. It is important to consult with your doctor on the effects of the medications you take.
- Other possible causes of hypothyroidism are — congenital disease, pituitary disorder, pregnancy and iodine deficiency
Another condition that is commonly caused by autoimmune disease, particularly Graves’ Disease is Hyperthyroidism. Antibodies that attach itself to the thyroid gland causes it to produce more hormones. Aside from Graves’ Disease, other causes of Hyperthyroidism are:
- Toxic Nodular Goiter – A solitary hot nodule found in the thyroid can sometimes cause the thyroid to produce more hormones than usual.
- Thyroiditis – Inflammation of the thyroid gland can cause it to produce excess hormones that are normally stored in the gland. Subacute thyroiditis and postparum thyroiditis are the most common thyroidits that causes Hyperthyroidism.
- Medication – Taking thyroid hormone drugs in excess can also cause Hyperthyroidism. It’s important to always consult with your doctor before taking any medication to get the proper dosage
- Abnormal secretion of TSH – a problem with the pituitary gland may produce an abnormally high secretion of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This will lead to signaling the thyroid gland to produce more hormones.
Thyroid Nodules is also a thyroid problem that is caused by Hashimoto’s Disease but the main culprit for Thyroid Nodules is Iodine deficiency. A severe lack of iodine in your diet can cause thyroid nodules. Iodine is needed to produce the hormone thyroxine. Other causes of Thyroid Nodules are:
- Overgrowth of normal Thyroid Tissue – This is also called Thyroid Adenoma. It is unclear to why this occurs but the thyroid adenoma can sometimes cause the thyroid to produce hormones outside the pituitary glands regulations thus producing more thyroid hormones than needed.
- Thyroid Cyst – These fluid-filled cavities (cyst) results from degenerating thyroid adenomas. They are usually benign but can sometimes contain malignant solid components.
- Thyroid Cancer – The chances of nodules being malignant are rare. The risk becomes higher though depending on you and your family’s medical history.
- Damaged Pituitary Gland – Problems with the pituitary gland can also cause Thyroid Nodules.
Goiter is another thyroid problem that is either caused by Graves Disease or Hashimoto’s Disease. The enlargement of the gland can be caused by either too much hormone or lack of it. Other causes of goiter are as follows:
- Iodine Deficiency – Lack of iodine in the body is actually the main cause of Goiter. It is very essential in the production of thyroid hormones. Goiter is caused when the thyroid enlarges in an effort to obtain more iodine.
- Multinodular Goiter – Solid or fluid-filled lumps called nodules develop in both sides of the thyroid. This results in over enlargement of the gland.
- Solitary Thyroid Nodules – A single nodule develops in one side of the thyroid gland. This also causes enlargement.
- Thyroid Cancer – This is a less common lump that develops in our thyroid gland. The cancer lump can also result in the formation of Goiter.
- Thyroiditis – Inflammation of the thyroid gland can also cause Goiter due to the swelling.
- Pregnancy – A hormone produced during the first tri-mester of pregnance (human chorionic gonadotrophin or HCG) can cause Goiter. The gland mistakes HCG for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and enlarges in response to it.
As you can see, it is still unclear as to the real cause of thyroid problems. All problems have several factors to consider, but the real root cause have yet to be identified (save for iodine deficiency). You may notice that a thyroid problem can lead to several more thyroid problems. It’s important to always have check-up with your doctor, especially if you feel something different or abnormal with your thyroid gland.
Taking care of the problem early will help lessen the problem and will save you money.