Live Life to the Fullest Despite Thyroid Issues
Photo provided by UC Health
The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is located in the base of the neck and is deceptively small for how much it can affect the body. Patients who develop thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism face a litany of symptoms that range from minor disturbances to serious health problems.
One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder, according to the American Thyroid Association. An estimated 30 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), and up to 60 percent of those with the disease are unaware of their condition.
Ruchi Bhabhra, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist in the UC Health Women’s Center at West Chester Hospital and adjunct assistant professor of endocrinology, provides answers and support for people with thyroid disorders. In fact, answers are part of why Dr. Bhabhra chose her specialty.
“Endocrinology is a specialty that is entirely based on physiology,” says Dr. Bhabhra. “Most of the time it’s black and white, a very calculative, scientific and intellectual specialty.”
“A lot of symptoms of thyroid disorders are so vague that patients can ignore them for awhile,” says Dr. Bhabhra. The two most common forms of thyroid disorders are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism, the underactive form, occurs when the thyroid is not making enough hormones. Symptoms include weight gain, difficulty losing weight, fatigue, cold intolerance, irregular menstruation, constipation and depression.
Hyperthyroidism, the overactive form, occurs when the thyroid makes too many hormones. Symptoms include weight loss, irregular menstruation, diarrhea, heat intolerance, heart palpitations and anxiety.
Autoimmune conditions are a common cause of thyroid disorders. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease causes hypothyroidism. In both cases the body’s immune system inappropriately reacts against the thyroid tissue.
Once patients have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder either by blood tests or imaging, endocrinologists like Dr. Bhabhra provide treatment to alleviate their symptoms. For hypothyroidism, most patients are prescribed a daily pill, which acts as a replacement for thyroid hormone, and they are then monitored with blood tests to assess the adequacy of their dose. Treatment for hyperthyroidism varies depending on the cause and can include an oral medication, radioactive iodine ablation or even surgery if needed.
Dr. Bhabhra hopes to see more research on hypothyroidism. “Patients often continue to experience hypothyroidism symptoms, even though their labs are absolutely normal, and I would like to see more evidence based guidelines to address that,” says Dr. Bhabhra.
The AACE reports that approximately 60,000 cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Thyroid cancer commonly has high survival rates, especially when diagnosed and treated in its early stages.
West Chester Hospital is located at 7700 University Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45069. You can reach them at 513.298.3000 or visit their website at www.UCHealth.com/WestChesterHospital.