Wednesday, August 5, 2015

unsuspected illness

One of the most under diagnosed and important conditions in the United States has been called the "unsuspected illness" and accounts for a great number of complaints in children, adolescents, and adults. This condition is an underactive thyroid system.

What kinds of complaints characterize an underactive thyroid system? Low energy and fatigue or tiredness, especially in the morning, is frequent in these patients. Difficulty losing weight, a sensation of coldness--especially of the hands and feet, depression, slowness of thought processes, headaches, swelling of the face or fluid retention in general, dry coarse skin, brittle nails, and chronic constipation are also common. In women, menstrual problems--such as PMS and menstrual irregularities including heavy periods and fertility problems are further signs and symptoms. People with an underactive thyroid may also have stiffness of joints, muscular cramps, shortness of breath on exertion, and chest pain. Be aware that a person with a low functioning thyroid doesn't have to have all of these symptoms; he may have only a few.

Where is the thyroid located in the body and what does it do? The thyroid gland consists of two small lobes connected together. It is located in the front of the neck, just below the voice box. The thyroid gland is responsible for the speed of metabolic processes in the body and therefore affects every organ and organ system. It is the metabolic stimulator, analogous to the accelerator of a car. Normal growth requires normal thyroid functioning. When the thyroid is not functioning properly, organs become infiltrated with metabolic wastes and all functions become sluggish.

When the thyroid gland is working properly, it uses the amino acid tyrosine and the element iodine to make the thyroid hormone called thyroxine or T4. Thyroxine is called T4 because it contains 4 iodine atoms. If a person is deprived of iodine in his diet, he develops an enlarged thyroid gland, called a goiter and symptoms of an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism. The other important thyroid hormone is triiodothyronine or T3, which has three iodine atoms. T3 is actually the major active thyroid hormone, being much more active than T4. T4 is produced within the thyroid gland and is later converted to the active T3 outside the thyroid gland in peripheral tissues. Under certain conditions, such as stress, the thyroid gland may produce sufficient amounts of T4 to obtain normal thyroid blood tests, but its conversion to T3 may be inhibited, causing a relative insufficiency of active T3. Under this circumstance, the patient will have hypothyroid symptoms in spite of normal thyroid blood tests. As you will see, this fact results in many missed diagnoses of an underactive thyroid system.