Thyroid disorder types: Causes, symptoms, and risk factors

The thyroid is a gland located in the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. The two main hormones produced by the thyroid are triiodothyronine, or T3, and thyroxine (T4). The gland also produces calcitonin, which helps bone cells process calcium and add it to the bones.

While the causes of thyroid disorders are largely unknown, they often occur when the thyroid gland does not produce enough or produces too many of these hormones. Thyroid disorders can affect heart rate, mood, energy level, metabolism, bone health, pregnancy, and many other functions.

Types of thyroid disorders

Many disorders of the thyroid gland can be diagnosed through physical exams and blood tests and may require medication or surgery to remove.


Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland is too active, causing it to make too much thyroid hormone.


Hyperthyroidism has several causes, including:

Hyperthyroidism may occur for other reasons, including:

  • Taking too much levels of thyroid hormone replacement medicine
  • Too much iodine in your diet
  • A non-cancerous tumor in the pituitary gland that makes the thyroid overactive

Risk factors

People with the following factors are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism:

  • Women
  • Age 60 and up
  • History of thyroid problems
  • Family history of thyroid problems
  • Certain medical conditions, such as type 1 diabetes
  • Too much iodine consumption.
  • Pregnant or have had a baby in the last 6 months


Common symptoms include:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Sweating more than normal
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Fine, brittle hair
  • Weak muscles, especially in the upper arms and thighs
  • Shaky hands
  • Fast heartbeat (palpitations)
  • High blood pressure
  • More bowel movements than normal
  • Weight loss
  • Problems sleeping
  • Prominent eyes
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Confusion
  • Irregular menstrual cycle in women
  • Tiredness and lack of energy (fatigue)
  • Thyroid gland is larger than normal (goiter)


Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder. In this case, the thyroid gland is not active enough to make enough thyroid hormone.


  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Treatment for an overactive thyroid gland, like radioactive iodine therapy or surgery
  • Pituitary gland stops working (secondary hypothyroidism)

Risk factors

People with the following factors are more likely to develop hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid):

  • Women
  • Age 60 and up
  • History of thyroid problems or thyroid surgery
  • Family history of thyroid problems
  • Certain medical conditions, like type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Turner syndrome, a genetic condition that affects women
  • Pregnant or have had a baby within the past 6 months
  • Iodine deficiency


Common symptoms include:

  • Dull facial expressions
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Being cold bothers you
  • Hoarse voice
  • Slow speech
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Puffy and swollen face
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Sparse, coarse, and dry hair
  • Coarse, dry, and thickened skin
  • Hand tingling or pain (carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Slow pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Sides of eyebrows thin or fall out
  • Confusion
  • Increased or irregular menstrual flow in women

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder, is an inflammation of the thyroid gland.


Because this is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacking the thyroid gland is causing it to reduce or stop the production of thyroid hormones.

Risk factors

People with the following factors are more likely to develop thyroiditis:

  • Women
  • Age 40 to 60 years old
  • Family history of thyroiditis
  • Certain medical problems, like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes


Common symptoms include:

  • Goiter
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Being cold bothers you
  • Depression
  • Hair and skin changes
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Being hot bothers you
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety

Thyroid Tumors

Thyroid nodules and adenomas are growths in the thyroid gland. There are several types of thyroid nodules, including:

  • Colloid nodules
  • Follicular adenomas
  • Thyroid cysts
  • Thyroid cancers


Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes
  • Pain in the neck
  • A swelling in the neck that you can see or feel (goiter)
  • Sudden, rapid weight loss
  • Fast or irregular pulse
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Cold intolerance
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Facial swelling (edema)

Thyroid Cancer

There are four main types of thyroid cancer:

  • papillary thyroid cancer
  • follicular thyroid cancer
  • anaplastic thyroid cancer
  • medullary thyroid cancer

Risk factors

People with the following factors are more likely to develop thyroid cancer::

  • Women 
  • Age 30 to 60 years old
  • Family history of thyroid cancer.
  • People who have undergone radiation to the head, neck or chest


Most thyroid cancers are asymptomatic, but some can cause symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Voice changes

Managing thyroid disorders

About 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and up to 60 percent of those are unaware that they have it. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid problems.

Fortunately, most thyroid cancers respond to treatment and only a small percentage can be life-threatening. Most thyroid diseases are life-long conditions that can be managed with medical attention.

It’s crucial for people with thyroid disorders to work closely with a healthcare provider. This way, they can manage their condition and maintain their overall health.

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Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered, construed or interpreted as legal or professional advice, guidance or opinion.

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