The thyroid is a hormonal gland , which is shaped like a butterfly and is located below the walnut and in front of the windpipe. Its mission is to generate two types of hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine , which are distributed throughout the body through the blood.
Well, these hormones are essential for the proper development of many bodily functions such as the regulation of energy, body temperature or metabolism. In addition, they affect growth, fertility, the development and growth of organs and maintain brain activity.
But the thyroid’s ability to produce these hormones is directly related to the extraction of a sufficient amount of iodine from the food we eat.
When the body does not receive enough iodine , the thyroid gland reduces its activity causing hypothyroidism . The symptoms of this pathology are:
Swelling of the lower limbs.
On the contrary, when the thyroid gland produces an excess of hormones, hyperthyroidism appears . The main signs of this hormonal excess are:
Sudden weight loss.
Increased sensitivity to heat, excessive sweating.
Increased number of bowel movements.
Most of the cases this pathology is caused by the autoimmune disease known as Graves disease . Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by the appearance of nodules in the thyroid or by some failure in the patient’s immune system.
THYROID PROBLEMS AND PREGNANCY
Well, Dr. Javier Santamaría, member of the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition (SEEN), recalled that thyroid dysfunction is very common in the general population, but especially in women.
«In a recent study carried out throughout the Spanish geography, it was found that the prevalence of hypothyroidism reached 13.3% of the female population; that of hyperthyroidism to 1.0% and that of thyroid autoimmunity to 10.8%, “says the doctor.
The expert recalls that, since pregnancy involves a significant work overload for the thyroid, as it needs to increase its production of thyroid hormones by around 50%, the presence of thyroid dysfunction is a very frequent phenomenon during pregnancy .
Dr. Santamaría indicates that, according to the available evidence, that the most common disorder during pregnancy is hypothyroidism . In these cases, and as we have seen, the gland cannot produce the amount of hormones necessary for the correct development of the fetus and the health of the future mother , at a time when a greater production of thyroid hormone is required.
It is estimated that up to 25% of pregnant women may present some alteration in the functioning of the thyroid gland . Therefore, it is recommended to assess thyroid function in all pregnant women in the first pregnancy test.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT TREATING THYROID DISEASES
When it comes to reproductive health and pregnancy, it is known that alterations in thyroid function affect reproductive function, so that there is a difficulty in achieving pregnancy .
In addition, the risk of an abortion once achieved is increased. “For this reason, whenever infertility problems or recurrent abortions are detected, it is especially important to rule out a possible thyroid pathology,” says Dr. Santamaría.
Clinical hypothyroidism is associated with multiple complications for both mother and child. Abortions, maternal anemia, hypertension and preeclampsia, placental abruption, threat and preterm delivery or postpartum hemorrhage in the case of women. Stillbirth, low birth weight, neonatal respiratory distress in fetuses.
“But, undoubtedly, the most obvious consequence of clinical hypothyroidism is the impairment in neurodevelopment, with a fall of almost 7 points in the IQ of the children of mothers with untreated clinical hypothyroidism,” explains Dr. María De la Calle spokesperson of the Spanish Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics (SEGO).
The thyroid produces glands that intervene in multiple functions of the body, from the development of the future child to the frequency with which our heart beats.
Among the ailments that can affect the thyroid gland, the nodules that appear in it are the most common. It is diagnosed in 4-8% of the general population, says Dr. Elena Navarro . And it is that “when scans such as CT or PET are performed for other health reasons, thyroid nodules may appear in 30-60% of cases.”
The main diagnostic challenge of these nodules is to be able to rule out malignancy, since, although most are benign, in approximately 10% of cases they can be cancerous, continues this expert.
Specifically, «to rule out malignancy, the ultrasound study of the nodules and the aspiration puncture for cytological study is essential. The role of the endocrinologist is essential, since he performs a complete study of the thyroid nodule, including thyroid ultrasound and aspiration puncture when necessary.
This makes the diagnosis more complete, faster and more efficient and thus allows to select more quickly the nodules that require surgery, from those that do not.
“In benign nodules it is important to monitor possible changes in size or characteristics, so follow-up is also carried out by ultrasound in Endocrinology consultations,” he warns.