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Potential Complications of Thyroid Disorders

Monday 16 August 2021
Thyroid Disorders
4 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Differentiating Hyperthyroidism & Hypothyroidism

II. A Look at Complications of Hyperthyroidism

III. Possible Complications of Hypothyroidism

IV. How Do I Prevent Complications?

Differentiating Hyperthyroidism & Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland serves many vital functions in the body. It produces tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which dictate how the cells in your body use energy. Your thyroid gland also plays an important role in regulating your metabolism. An over or underactive thyroid gland can seriously disrupt your body’s hormonal balance and lead to several health complications. [1]

An overactive (hyperthyroidism) and an underactive (hypothyroidism) thyroid gland can cause different complications, and so it is important to differentiate between the two conditions. Hyperthyroidism involves producing too much thyroid hormone and the latter too little, so their treatment methods will differ.

Your doctor may prescribe an anti-thyroid drug such as Tapazole (methimazole) to treat an overactive thyroid. If you have an underactive thyroid, your doctor may supplement your thyroid hormones with Synthroid (levothyroxine) or desiccated thyroid. Read on to learn more about thyroid disorder complications.

A Look at Complications of Hyperthyroidism

The most severe complication of hyperthyroidism involves the heart. When thyroid hormone production spikes, a rapid heart rate can occur. Too much thyroid hormone circulating in the body can also lead to atrial fibrillation. [2]

two hands put together to form a heart

Atrial fibrillation is characterized by an irregular heartbeat and causes poor blood flow. [3] This is a dangerous complication because atrial fibrillation can increase the likelihood of congestive heart failure and a stroke. Complications that involve the heart are potentially life-threatening because poor circulation can cause the body to shut down. [2]

Hyperthyroidism can also increase the risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become brittle and weak and your bones require calcium to stay strong. When there is too much thyroid hormone circulating, the body is not able to efficiently absorb calcium into your bones. [2]

If your hyperthyroidism is caused by Grave’s disease, you may be at risk of a complication known as Grave’s ophthalmopathy. This complication involves the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Red and swollen eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye bulging
  • Potential vision loss

In addition to eye problems, an overactive thyroid gland may cause a thyrotoxic crisis, characterized by a sudden amplification of your symptoms. This can mean a high fever, a rapid pulse, and feelings of delirium. A thyrotoxic crisis should be treated as soon as possible. [2]

Possible Complications of Hypothyroidism

An underactive thyroid may lead to several serious complications. The most common complication of hypothyroidism is the growth of a goiter. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that can cause a giant bulge on your neck. This bulge is usually caused by overstimulation of the thyroid gland, which can occur as your body’s attempt to make the gland produce enough hormone. A goiter can make it very difficult and uncomfortable to breathe and to swallow food. [4]

Hypothyroidism can cause several complications in women who are pregnant or trying for a baby. Pregnant women with hypothyroidism have a higher risk of giving birth to a baby with birth defects. An underactive thyroid can also impair ovulation and fertility. [4]

a pregnant woman embraced by her significant other

If hypothyroidism is left untreated for long periods, your peripheral nerves can suffer. The peripheral nerves are crucial because they transfer information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. If there is damage to the peripheral nerves, you may feel pain and numbness in the afflicted areas. [4]

Hypothyroidism can also affect the heart and increase the risk of heart failure. However, the reason for this connection differs. Those with an underactive thyroid tend to have higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which can lead to high cholesterol. In turn, high cholesterol can cause heart disease over time. [4]

If your thyroid does not produce enough hormone, you may be at risk of myxedema. This complication is rare, but it can be life-threatening. If you develop myxedema, you will likely experience persistent drowsiness, severe lethargy, and loss of consciousness. [4]

How Do I Prevent Complications?

The most important thing is to get on top of your treatment early. Most complications occur because the thyroid disorder is left untreated for too long. If you are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, ask your doctor about the effectiveness of Synthroid, Tapazole, and desiccated thyroid.

a spoonful of salt on a black background

There are also steps you can take outside of medical treatment to improve your thyroid health. You can ask a dietician about a low-iodine diet if you have hyperthyroidism. Iodine is a mineral that helps with thyroid hormone production, so cutting down on your iodine intake can reduce hormone production if your thyroid gland is overproducing. On the flip side, increasing your vitamins and minerals may help if you have an underactive thyroid. [5]

Your thyroid health is extremely important. When the thyroid is impaired, your body won’t effectively use energy, maintain an optimal body temperature, or keep your vital organs functioning properly. Talk to your doctor about medical treatment options, diet tips, and home remedies for your condition.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.