What causes Thyroid problems?
Thyroid conditions are mostly caused by conditions that affect the immune system, in turn impacting the effectiveness of the thyroid gland. An underactive thyroid is likely to be caused by the immune system attacking the gland itself, but treatments for an overactive thyroid can also lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Whereas an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, is largely caused by Grave’s disease, which also targets the immune system, causing an overproduction of thyroid hormones.
Other causes of an Overactive thyroid:
- Excessive Iodine
- Nodules (Abnormal tissue growth)
Other causes of an Underactive thyroid:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Iodine Deficiency
- Non-functioning thyroid gland
Autoimmune Thyroid Disorders
The two main autoimmune conditions that are of particular focus in this article are Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which causes hypothyroidism, and Grave’s Diseases, causing hyperthyroidism. These conditions can not be cured, but they can be managed. Because the immune system is the primary culprit in the progression of these diseases, having an autoimmune condition can lead to the development of more thyroid problems. Therefore, we need to look into why, and how, autoimmune conditions affect the thyroid.
X Chromosomes and Autoimmune Disorders
When trying to understand why women tend to be more susceptible to thyroid conditions, you have to look into genetics. Women only have two X chromosomes (XX), compared to men having only one (XY), as X chromosomes have approximately 900 genes, they have a higher risk of genetic mutations.
A majority of these genes are related to the immune system, although your body’s cells can typically correct mishaps, sometimes mutations can go unnoticed, this doubled risk can lead to faults in the immune system, thus more chance of developing autoimmune disorders.
Autoimmune thyroid disorders can be triggered by a combination of environmental and genetic factors, since we all carry potential genes that are susceptible to this, significant changes in an individuals life can flick the switch.
The thyroid gland is regulated by the pituitary gland at the centre of the brain, this gland secretes a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which signals the production of thyroid hormones. Women have higher levels of oestrogen and progesterone, which affects the amount of TSH produced, and therefore influences the function of the thyroid. Each of these hormones rampantly increase during pregnancy, increasing the likelihood of thyroid issues.
- Oestrogen is used by the body to support the development of the fetus and the changes within the body, additionally, oestrogen protects your cells by strengthening the immune system.
- Progesterone keeps the immune system in check, and can aid in balancing oestrogen.
- Prolactin boosts the levels of inflammation in the body, if an autoimmune disorder is present that is particularly affected by inflammation, symptoms can be worsened by this.