Thyroid Disorders: The Incurable Disease
April 18, 2000
Key Words: Radioactive Iodine, Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, Thyroid-Stimulating
RAI Radioactive Iodine
RDA Recommended Daily Allowance
TRH Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone
TSH Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone
TSI Thyroid-Stimulating Immunoglobulins
The thyroid, the largest of the endocrine glands, is located in the neck. It controls
both physical and mental growth. One way in which the thyroid gland does this is by
controlling metabolism, which directs the processes of growth, energy production, and
waste elimination. The thyroid gland also prevents the buildup of calcium in the blood
(The Nutritional Health of your Thyroid). To fulfill the many responsibilities of the
thyroid gland, it is imperative that the gland be neither overactive nor underactive.
Either can result in significant problems.
An overactive thyroid, oftentimes also known as Graves’ disease, is a condition
where all of the body’s reactions and processes are accelerated, frequently to three times
what they normally should be. This can be detrimental to the body if left untreated, and,
unfortunately, it can go unnoticed for many months. An underactive thyroid causes all of
the body’s processes to slow down and, thus, has signs and symptoms opposite of those
for overactive thyroid disorders. Goiter problems, such as endemic goiter, also affect the
body’s processes and often result in an enlarged thyroid due to a lack of iodine in the
A thyroid disorder often is an unpredictable disease that can occur at almost any
age, especially in women. Although several treatment options presently exist, there is no
Table of Contents
Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 4
Discussion ........................................................................................................................... 7
Hyperthyroidism ............................................................................................................. 9
Hypothyroidism ............................................................................................................ 12
Additional Thyroid Disorders ....................................................................................... 16
Annotated Bibliography .................................................................................................... 18
Thyroid Disorders: The Incurable Disease
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that wraps around the trachea just
below the Adam‟s apple. This gland consists of two hormone-secreting lateral lobes (on
either side of the larynx) at the base of the front of the neck. These hormones are known
as thyroxine. The main function of thyroxine is to regulate metabolism for the
production of heat and energy in the body tissues. It also has many other functions.
Thyroxine regulates the rate at which calories are burned, and, thus, may cause weight
loss or gain. It helps slow down or quicken the heartbeat and raise or lower body
temperature, influences the rate at which food moves through the digestive tract, the way
muscles contract, and the rate at which dying cells are replaced (Thyroid Problems).
In order for thyroxine to be produced, there must be an adequate supply of iodine
in the blood (in fact, worldwide, the likeliest cause of thyroid disorders is a deficiency of
iodine). The thyroid gland takes iodine from the bloodstream in order to produce the
hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which help regulate tissue and organ
metabolism. Both hormones rely on stimulation by the pituitary, which produces thyroid-
stimulating hormone (TSH) in response to rising or falling T3 and T4 levels (Zamula,
The figure below (Figure 1) illustrates exactly where the thyroid is located and
how it interacts with other glands in hormone production. In general, the way to discover
whether or not a person has a thyroid problem is to measure the levels of each of these
hormones. If irregularities are found, then, most likely, a thyroid problem also will be
Figure 1: How the Thyroid Gland Works
The hypothalamus produces Pituitary
hormone (TRH), which
stimulates the pituitary gland
to produce thyroid- TRH
stimulating hormone (TSH).
TSH stimulates the thyroid
gland to produce hormones
T3 and T4. When the
pituitary senses a decrease in TSH T4 + T3
T3 or T4, it produces
additional TSH to stimulate Thyroid
the thyroid gland to produce
Diagram by Boots
T2 + T3
The next figure (Figure 2) is a chart showing many popular foods and the
micrograms of iodine corresponding to each. Several studies performed in the early
1900‟s found a link between the amount of iodine consumed and the occurrences of
goiter problems (goiter is another term for an enlarged thyroid gland). Although many
Americans consume more iodine than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
specifies, there exist many countries where it often is not possible to obtain the RDA, if at
all. This is most likely due to the uneven distribution of iodine in the environment. In
the United States and other developed countries however, once the concept of iodized salt
materialized, the occurrences of goiter problems became a thing of the past (Zamula,
Figure 2: Some Iodine-Rich Foods
Food Serving Size Micrograms of Iodine
cod or haddock, cooked 3 1/2 oz (100 g) 175
chocolate milkshake (fast food) 1 average (283 g) 158
homemade meatloaf 3 1/2 oz (100 g) 123
lima beans, immature, boiled 1/2 cup (91 g) 104
chocolate ice cream 1 cup (133 g) 94
corn grits, cooked 1/2 cup (121 g) 86
low-fat chocolate milk 1 cup (250 g) 83
navy beans, boiled 1/2 cup (91 g) 78
low-fat yogurt 1 cup (227 g) 73
low-fat milk 1 cup (244 g) 66
skim milk 1 cup (246 g) 64
whole milk 1 cup (244 g) 61
Iodine deficiency is no longer a problem in the United States, with virtually all Americans getting
enough of the substance in their diets. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iodine for
adolescents and adults is 150 micrograms a day(1000 micrograms = 1 milligram) and 200
micrograms for pregnant women. Most Americans consume more than the RDA, but are usually
unaffected by excess iodine unless they have an underlying thyroid disease.
Source: FDA’s Total Diet Study, 1982-1984
A healthy thyroid gland releases just the right amount of hormone (thyroxine) to
meet the body‟s metabolic needs. However, if the gland becomes diseased, it may
produce too much thyroxine resulting in hyperthyroidism, or too little resulting in
An over-stimulated thyroid gland, also known as hyperthyroidism, speeds up the
body‟s metabolic processes. “Hyperthyroidism affects approximately 1 million
Americans and is more common in women, particularly those 30-40 years old”
(American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Releases Clinical Guidelines for
Thyroid Disease, 1995). The most common type of hyperthyroidism is Graves‟ disease,
also known as diffuse toxic goiter, which will be the focus of the hyperthyroidism
section. Graves‟ disease is named after Robert Graves, the physician who first described
this form of hyperthyroidism. Graves‟ disease occurs when the immune system triggers
formation of “thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins (TSIs) that bind with TSH receptors
to abnormally stimulate thyroid function” (The Highs and Lows of Autoimmune Thyroid,
1998). In a sense, Graves‟ disease represents a basic defect in the immune system where
the body is trying to fight itself. Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, occurs when the
body produces antibodies that destroy an essential enzyme needed to produce T3 and T4
(The Highs and Lows of Autoimmune Thyroid, 1998). The most common type of
hypothyroidism is Hashimoto‟s thyroiditis, which is easily treatable with medicine.
In addition to the above disorders, there also exist other thyroid problems such as
endemic goiter and thyroid disease resulting from pregnancy; however, these are not as
serious as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism because neither is permanent.
Thyroid diseases are unpredictable disorders in the sense that when they occur
and why are practically unknown. Researchers have noticed that thyroid disease seems to
run in families, but are not sure why.
The figure below (Figure 3) visually shows the pattern of thyroid disorders
throughout my family as far back as is documented or known. Note how there is a
distinct pattern of thyroid disorders, especially hypothyroidism, on my mother‟s side of
the pedigree. As for myself, marked by the arrow at the bottom of the pedigree, I am the
only family member to have been diagnosed with Graves‟ disease. This is not entirely
unusual, however, because the genes for an autoimmune disease are passed to each
generation. What is unusual is that my family tends only to have autoimmune diseases of
the thyroid. Also unusual is that one of my uncles, the only male affected by thyroid
disease, has Hashimotos‟s disease. This is the most common form of hypothyroidism,
yet it affects women fifty-times more than men (Autoimmune Disease in Women, 1999).
Figure 3: Pedigree of My Family Members With Thyroid Disease
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 1 1
1 2 3 4 5 6
1 2 3
This pedigree illustrates, to the best of my knowledge, the occurrence of thyroid disease
throughout my family. The pedigree begins in the top left hand corner of the page (I) with
my great-grandparents on my mother’s side, R.C. and Kate Vaden. They had 5 children,
Robert, Margaret, Kathryn, Dolly and Charles. Dolly, (II, 5), had a small goiter on her
thyroid and had her entire thyroid removed as a result. The other black circle, (II, 3),
belongs to Kathryn, my grandmother, who has a small benign tumor on her thyroid.
Kathryn married Kavanaugh Sparrow. They had two children, my mother Pamela and my
uncle Kavey. Kavey, the only affected male I found (III, 2), has Hashimoto’s Thyrodoxia
and was diagnosed several years ago. My mother, on the other hand (III, 3), was recently
diagnosed with hypothyroidism. My mother married my father, John, whose family has
only a minor occurrence of thyroid disease. As can be seen on the pedigree, only his sister,
my aunt Jane (III, 6), has had a known thyroid problem. She had temporary
hypothyroidism while in college, but now is fine. Thus, the pedigree leads down to my
sister Kathryn and me, the last black circle with the arrow (IV, 3). I was diagnosed with
hyperthyroidism in August 1999. To my family’s knowledge, I am the only known person in
our family history with hyperthyroidism. It is important to note, however, that the
occurrences of thyroid disease in my family shown on the pedigree are the only ones
known. There may have been more infected family members in the past, but this
information either was never discovered by doctors or documented by family members.
As for what triggers the disease, some specialists believe that stress can play a role
in initiating a thyroid disease, as well as a person‟s immune system, smoking, and sex
hormones. Thyroid diseases, therefore, can occur at any age, although the thyroid gland
typically weakens as humans grow older. Many experts feel its degeneration is partly
due to nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of iodine. (The Nutritional Health of your
Thyroid). Although a weakened thyroid can cause hypothyroidism in older generations,
younger generations can still be affected by the thyroid disease known as
Hyperthyroidism is an over-functioning of the thyroid gland, which can be
thought of as the body being in overdrive. This overdrive mode causes the thyroid to
produce too much thyroid hormone. Such an increase in the thyroid hormone level
causes the bodily functions controlled by the thyroid to speed up, such as heart rate,
blood pressure (sometimes), and metabolism. But how exactly does this work?
The feedback mechanism which involves the hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid
glands, for some reason not exactly known, becomes faulty. This, in turn, causes an
overproduction of TRH, TSH, or sometimes the thyroid gland itself “declares
independence and begins to produce thyroxine in large quantities, regardless of the
instructions it receives from the pituitary” (Hyperthyroidism, 1999). In Graves‟ disease
and most other forms of hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid
hormone on its own and overrides the normal pituitary gland control mechanism. The
pituitary senses that the level of thyroid hormone is excessive and compensates for this
by releasing less TSH (Diagnosing Graves‟ disease, 1999). Graves‟ disease also is a
glandular autoimmune disease which affects the thyroid gland in women seven times as
often as in men. An autoimmune disease means that a person‟s tissues, molecules, or
cells are mistaken as foreign and are attacked by that person‟s own immune system
As a result of the changing levels of thyroid hormone in the body, there exists a
relatively easy way to diagnose a case of hyperthyroidism. This is with a blood test. The
blood test measures both T3 and T4 levels along with the level of TSH. If the T4 level is
high, it confirms the presence of hyperthyroidism. However, an elevated T4 level may
not necessarily prove the presence of an overactive thyroid. This is because thyroid
hormones are carried in the blood mainly in a form that attaches to certain blood proteins
and, therefore, allows only a small amount of the thyroid hormone to be free and active.
Factors such as pregnancy or birth control pills may increase the total amount of thyroid
hormone bound to protein and, thus, may give a false impression of hyperthyroidism
(Diagnosing Graves‟ disease, 1999). As a result, many endocrinologists also check the
T3 level in the blood. Prior to a blood test, a semi-accurate way of determining if
someone has hyperthyroidism, or especially Graves‟ disease, is by observing the person‟s
physical appearance and noting how many signs of the disease the person displays. Some
of the signs and symptoms include flushed skin, rapid pulse rate, increased temperature,
easy irritability, hair loss, tendency to lose weight, a slight tremor in the hands, and
palpitations. In addition to these, I also had a slight protrusion of my eyes, a definite
increase in appetite due to the increase in my metabolism, and a swelling of my thyroid
gland itself when I was diagnosed with Graves‟ disease in August of 1999. The increase
in metabolism is due in part to the activity in one‟s cells which are burning so much fuel
that normal supplies cannot keep up with the demand. The body uses its muscle and fat
for energy by means of a process called gluconeogenesis (Hyperthyroidism, 1998). Since
Graves‟ disease is an autoimmune disease, a person‟s immune system mistakenly attacks
the thyroid gland in addition to the tissue behind the eyes and the skin of the lower legs,
causing both to thicken. One out of every 20 patients with Graves‟ disease exhibits some
type of eye involvement, as I did, and oftentimes the seriousness of this sign is not
Protrusion of the eyes, which is caused by an enlargement in the muscles of the
eyelids, gives the impression that the eyes are “bulging” or are larger because the muscles
of the eyelids pull back the eyelid and thus expose more of the eye. In addition to eye-
protrusion, there are other eye problems such as inflammation, double vision, or blurred
vision. Smoking tends to worsen the eye problems associated with Graves‟ disease. If
any of these problems are not discovered and treated, they could become permanent (The
Facts About Hyperthyroidism).
As for the treatment of hyperthyroidism, there are usually three options from
which to choose – surgery, antithyroid drugs, and radiation with radioactive iodine.
Surgery, now the least-used option, consists of removing most of the thyroid gland in
hopes that it will be suppressed enough to function normally. Oftentimes either too little
or too much of the thyroid is removed or nerve damage results. If too little is removed,
the person will remain hyperthyroid, and if too much is removed, the person can become
hypothyroid and must take replacement pills everyday. When this procedure is done
correctly, it is 90-95% effective. Antithyroid drugs, which is the treatment I am using,
are only about 20-30% effective and consist of taking numerous pills each day (The Facts
About Hyperthyroidism). First, I was given a beta-blocker (Atenolol), which was needed
to slow down my heart rate. I took one pill a day for about 3-4 months and the problem
was corrected. I am still taking propylthiouracil (PTU) pills, seven a day, to fully combat
the hyperthyroidism. The main downside of taking these pills is that they reduce the
immune system. In my case, my blood must be taken once a month to monitor my
hormone levels as well as my white blood cell count. So far, this type of treatment has
been successful for me, but if the reductions in hormone levels stop, a permanent
solution, such as Radioactive Iodine (RAI), will need to be considered. RAI is the most
widely recommended treatment method because is causes very little radiation exposure to
the rest of the body and is quite successful. It is given orally and quickly goes to the
thyroid, because of the thyroid‟s need for iodine. Although this method is successful, it
should not be used for women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming so. Oftentimes
RAI can suppress too much of the thyroid, resulting in hypothyroidism and the need to
take supplements each day. Each treatment method should be discussed with one‟s
endocrinologist so that the best treatment method for the individual is chosen. It is
important to note that people who are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism will require
medical monitoring and follow-up for the rest of their lives.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the amount of thyroid hormone in the
body is below normal or, in other words, is the opposite of hyperthyroidism. Like
hyperthyroidism, however, the exact cause of this disease is unknown. It can occur
spontaneously or can result from over-treatment of hyperthyroidism.
In general, since hypothyroidism is the opposite of hyperthyroidism, the signs and
symptoms of the diseases often are opposites of each other. Signs and symptoms of
hypothyroidism include a feeling of being run down, cold, tired, demonstrating weight
gain, dry hair, a puffy face, and a failure of memory.
The figure below, Figure 4, is a diagram of the signs and symptoms for both
hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Note how the symptoms of one disease directly
oppose the symptoms of the other disease in several instances. Many also can be pushed
aside as normal signs of aging and stress.
Figure 4: Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Disease
Loss of lateral
Puffy face and Goiter
Dry, coarse hair heartbeat
Dry skin weight loss
Warm, moist palms
Fine tremor of
The above figure illustrates both the signs and symptoms of thyroid
disease. On the left side of the picture hypothyroidism is recognized,
Brittle nails while on the right side, hyperthyroidism is described. Notice how a
woman is used for the diagram because Thyroid Disease is 3 times
more likely to occur in women than men.
Diagram redrawn from Boots Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
The explanation for many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism stems from the
lack of thyroid hormone circulating in the body. For instance, when an inadequate
amount of thyroid hormone reaches the heart cells, the heart does not pump efficiently
enough to meet the body‟s needs. Also, if the liver does not have the proper amount of
thyroid hormone, cholesterol cannot be cleared, thus, arteries may clog and heart
problems may result. Too little thyroid hormone affects the way smooth muscles
contract, making the movement of blood more difficult. Last but not least, the rapid
growth of cells is stunted leaving nails, skin, and hair brittle and dry (Hypothyroidism
and Your Health, 1995).
When diagnosing hypothyroidism, a blood test is performed, which tests for TSH
and T4 levels. The TSH test is quite useful because the pituitary gland, which makes
TSH, acts as a “thermostat” for the body and provides insights as to what the thyroid is
producing. The pituitary gland is so sensitive that it completely stops making TSH when
the thyroid gland is only slightly overactive. For example, when my TSH level was
tested before my hyperthyroidism diagnosis, my level was around 0.025, which is quite
close to 0 (meaning no TSH would be produced), while normal is between 0.5-5.5. As
for T4 levels, normal is about 5-12 micrograms per deciliter. While a person with
hypothyroidism would have levels below these numbers, a person with hyperthyroidism
would have levels above. In my situation, with hyperthyroidism, my first measured T4
level was around 18.7 (although now, with treatment, my level is down to around 6).
Regarding T3 levels, normal is approximately 75-180 nanograms per deciliter. Since this
hormone does not play as large of a role in the diagnosis of hypothyroidism as the T4
level does, it normally is not tested (Testing and Diagnosis, 1998).
Once the blood has been tested, a T4 in the low to normal range, along with a high
TSH, confirms a diagnosis of thyroid failure (Hypothyroidism: The Underactive
Thyroid, 1999). New research also suggests that those persons who believe they are
hypothyroid have a thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) blood test performed.
The physician measures the patient‟s TSH level, gives an
injection of TRH, then draws blood 25 minutes later and re-
measures the TSH. If the first TSH level is normal and the
second TSH level is high, it tells the doctor that the patient‟s
thyroid is underactive (HELP! My TSH is “Normal” But I
Think I‟m Hypothyroid, 1997).
The treatment for hypothyroidism is similar to that for hyperthyroidism, although
there only is one choice – taking pills. The most common pill is levothyroxine sodium,
which is a pure synthetic T4 and thus replaces the T4 that the thyroid fails to secrete. Most
often, a patient is given very small doses and for several weeks the dose is slowly
increased until the proper working dosage is discovered (The Facts About
Hypothyroidism). Although this medicine may take several weeks to fully begin
working, some patients notice a difference during the first week or two of medication.
Just like Graves‟ disease, hypothyroidism is a permanent disorder. The pills must be
taken for life.
If the levothyroxine sodium alone does not help the patient to feel close to
“normal,” an addition of a T3 medicine may be used. It is interesting to note that in the
past, before levothyroxine sodium had been discovered, patients were given a pill made
from desiccated animal thyroid in hopes that an animal‟s thyroid would help their own
(Thyroid Problems: Too Little Hormone = Hypothyroidism, 1999). Prescriptions were
soon stopped for this because the dosage of each pill varied. An exact dosage for a patient
could not be determined. The animal thyroid also contained T3, which is not
recommended unless necessary. In addition to taking pills, which supply the needed T4,
soy products may need to be avoided because they contain isoflavones, which are the part
of the soy product that act as an anti-thyroid agent. Isoflavones, therefore, suppress
thyroid function and can worsen hypothyroidism. Children, fed with soy-formula, were
even three-times as likely to develop thyroid problems (Thyroid Disease: The Dangerous
Downside of Soy Products, 2000).
On the positive side, once diagnosed with hypothyroidism, treatment can not only
restore the body‟s metabolism back to normal (and possibly result in weight loss), but
also can result in lower cholesterol levels and, thus, decreased heart disease risk.
Additional Thyroid Disorders
In addition to the major thyroid disorders, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism,
there exist other disorders, such as goiters and thyroid problems during and after
Goiters are enlargements of the thyroid gland mainly associated with iodine
deficiency. They also result in swelling in the front part of the neck (where the thyroid is
located) (Diagnosis: Hypothyroidism! – Answers to Some Common Questions, 2000).
In almost all cases, treatment by medication or surgery will correct the problem and
reduce the thyroid gland to its normal size (Zamula, 1992). Prior to medication, however,
the treatment for goiters in the old west was to wrap a snake around the neck of the
patient and let it slither over the goiter to shrink it (Thyroid Fun Stuff, 1997).
As for thyroid problems in relation to pregnancy, they are quite common because
thyroid diseases often occur in women around 20-30 years of age. In fact, if a case of
hypothyroidism is severe enough, it could reduce a woman‟s chances of becoming
pregnant. Once a woman is pregnant, the symptoms of hypothyroidism are similar to the
symptoms of pregnancy, such as tiredness and weight gain. Thus, the disease can be hard
to detect. On the positive side, the treatment for this disease does not have harmful side
effects for either the mother or the child. If a woman is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism
because of the changes in menstrual periods, she is more likely to have miscarriages. In
this case, it is imperative that the disease be identified. For hyperthyroidism, PTU is still
prescribed but must be monitored closely, because it can affect the baby‟s thyroid as well
as the mother‟s.
As for thyroid problems after pregnancy, one of every twenty women develops a
thyroid problem within a few months after giving birth. This condition is known as
postpartum thyroiditis. It will cause hyperthyroidism for several weeks and then switch
to hypothyroidism for several more weeks. Generally, this condition goes away on its
own within 1-4 months. However, women who develop this condition once are more
likely to develop it in the future. One out of every four women who develops postpartum
thyroiditis will go on to develop a permanent thyroid disorder (Thyroid Problems and
The thyroid is an essential gland which controls many of the processes within the
body. Thyroid disorders are diseases which affect those bodily processes and, thus, the
thyroid gland needs to be kept healthy. Although incurable, the disorders are easily
treatable with proper diagnosis.
Ahmad, Saeed, Mark H. Brakke and James F. Marks. “Treatment guidelines for
hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.” JAMA. v. 274 (Oct. 4, 1995) p. 1011-
This article consists of letters written in response to an article published in JAMA in which
guidelines for physicians on the care of patients with thyroid disorders are given. The first writer
discusses the role of amiodarone in causing thyroid disorder. The second writer asks questions
relating to cost saving and, screening for serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in women
over 60 years of age. The third writer notes treatment of hypothyroidism diagnosed and treated in
“American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist Releases Clinical Guidelines for
Thyroid Disease.” American Family Physician. v. 51 (Feb. 15, 1995) pp. 679-
This article discusses clinical guidelines on the management of thyroid disease issued by the
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Approximately 6-7 million Americans suffer
from hypothyroidism, and about one million suffer from hyperthyroidism. The guidelines
discussed cover the signs and symptoms of both diseases and the difficulties encountered in their
diagnosis. Advice on a system of care for these patients also is provided.
“Autoimmune Disease in Women – The Facts.” American Autoimmune: Related
Diseases Associatoin, Inc. January 1999. http://www.aarda.org/women.html (7
This was a wonderful website which discussed several types of autoimmune diseases and the rate
of occurrences in each. This also was useful because it was geared towards women and discussed
how and some thoughts on why the occurrences of the diseases are more prevalent in women.
Endocrine diseases are discussed as well as connective tissue diseases.
“Causes of Graves‟ Disease.” Graves‟ Disease: Causes. June 14, 1999.
http://www.tsh.org/publications/pt2cause.html (27 Jan 2000).
This article obviously discusses the causes, or what are believed to be some causes for the disease.
It noted that Graves’ Disease clearly runs in families which was interesting to me because I had
been told that it did not. Also discussed, based on the heredity factor, was the occurrence of
thyroid disease in sets of identical twins. Briefly, the article said that either both will have the
disease or both will not, but rarely does only one have it. Some specialists also believe that stress
can play a role in starting the disease.
“Diagnosing Graves‟ disease.” Graves‟ Disease: Diagnosing. June 14, 1999.
http://www.tsh.org/publications/pt2dx.html (27 Jan 2000).
This website offered a plethora of information about the two specific hormones produced by the
thyroid. Also information was provided on exactly what autoantibodies are found in the blood
that help diagnose Graves’ disease. Some additional background on TSH and what its purpose in
the body is was also given.
Franklyn, JA et al. “Incidence of Cancer and Mortality After Radioiodine Treatment for
Hyperthyroidism.” Clinical Thyroidology. v. XII Issue 1, June 1999.
I obtained this article through my endocrinologist. This article discusses radioiodine treatment
specifically and the possible links between it and both cancer and mortality. As opposed to what I
would have thought, a study done in the U.K. showed that an overall decrease in cancer incidence
and mortality was shown in patients treated with radioiodine. Specifically, cancers of the
pancreas, bladder, and bronchus. However, a link has been found between radioiodine treatments
and a higher risk of thyroid cancer.
“Graves‟ Disease.” Mayo Clinic Health Education. January 2000.
http://www.mayohealth.org/mayo/pted/htm/graves.htm (23 Jan 2000).
This is a wonderful reference for information on Graves’ disease. This article discusses the
thyroid in general as well as all the aspects of Graves’ disease. I did not realize that patients
with Graves’ disease may have the skin over the shins appear red and swollen as well as the tops
of the feet. How the disease affects the eyes also is discussed in great detail. I did not realize
either how many different ways the eyes can be affected during thyroid disease, and specifically
during Graves’ disease.
“Hyperthyroidism.” October 26, 1999. http://www.personal.u-
net.com/~my4tune/hyper.html (19 Jan 2000).
This article discusses the symptoms, treatment options, and possible causes of hyperthyroidism.
Also included at the end of the article is a bibliography so further research can be conducted on
your own. In summary, Graves’ disease is where the immune system is convinced that the thyroid
is a foreign tissue and beings producing antibodies against it. The article goes into great detail
about the workings of Glucose and ATP and when a person has this disease, where energy is
“Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid).” Health Information Library. January 1998.
http://www.unitedhealth.org/library/HORM4701.htm (19 Jan 2000).
This article briefly describes the symptoms and risks of treatment for hyperthyroidism. I did not
realize that this disease causes the bones to lose calcium at an increased rate and thus, bones can
become brittle due to osteoporosis. As for the treatment options, there exist drugs, radiation, or
surgery. I did not realize either that surgery is the riskiest of the three because it can cause nerve
damage, infection, and, ironically, hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism and Your Health. Knoll Pharmaceutical Company. Mount Olive: NJ,
This pamphlet discusses hypothyroidism and how it affects the different systems in the body such
as the heart, liver and cell growth. I did not realize that hypothyroidism could cause flat, white
patches on skin or that it affects the way arteries and veins contract, making the movement of
blood more difficult. This pamphlet also discusses the importance of treatment, for without
treatment, heart or kidney disease and mental illness can occur.
“Hypothyroidism: The Underactive Thyroid.” Information on Hypothyroidism. June
14, 1999. http://www.tsh.org/ptinfo/hypobroc.html (27 Jan 2000).
This article, by the Thyroid Foundation of America, focuses on all aspects of hypothyroidism
including symptoms, treatment, and follow-up. One startling fact is that one woman in ten over
the age of 65 has evidence of the earliest stages of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism can occur
spontaneously, or it can develop after treatment for hyperthyroidism. Once treatment begins the
dosage may need to be increased during pregnancy and decreased as the patient ages. Another
interesting fact is that thyroid hormone excess may also cause excessive calcium loss from your
bones, thus making your risk for fractures increase.
Ladenson, Paul W., M.D. “Treatments for Graves‟ Disease: Letting the Thyroid Rest.”
The New England Journal of Medicine. v. 324 no 14, April 4, 1991.
This is an editorial that discusses the three current treatment methods for hyperthyroidism.
Radioactive-iodine therapy and surgical thyroidectomy are both extremely effective and usually
result in permanent cure. However, thyroid surgery is inconvenient, expensive, and must be done
only by the most experienced doctors. Also, when research was done on a group of doctors who
treated thyroid patients, the majority said that if the patient was young, anti-thyroid drugs would
be sought first.
Lucas, K. Jean. “Hyperthyroidism.” Inside Health. January 1997.
http://www.mydoctors.com/TLCPublicationsHyperthyroid.htm (27 Jan 2000).
This article, by The Leland Clinic. P.C., addresses many common questions about
Hyperthyroidism. Discussed in detail are medications and treatment options for patients with
hyperthyroidism. One method of treatment, initially, is to take beta blockers – which is what I did.
These reduce the heart rate to normal and reduce the tremors that are associated with the disease.
Also given is advice for how to prevent the weight gain that will result from taking many of the
medications. This was particularly interesting to me because I had an increase in my weight due
to my medication.
McConnell, Edwina A. “Myths & Facts . . . About Thyroid Disease.” Nursing 96. v. 26
(Apr. 1996) p. 17.
This article discusses a number of common assumptions about thyroid disease which are untrue.
For example, hyperthyroidism is not another name for Graves’ disease. Also, contrary to popular
belief, treatment is not complicated; it involves a single dose of radioactive iodine therapy given
orally. Remember however, that this is just one method of treatment. Discussed as well is how
hypothyroidism does and can affect children. .
Rogers, Douglas G. “Thyroid disease in children.” American Family Physician. v. 50
(Aug. 1994) pp. 344-50.
This article discusses thyroid diseases found in children such as congenital hypothyroidism,
acquired hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, and thyroid nodules. In children surgical excision is
still required to definitively determine whether a nodule is malignant. Also discussed is the fact
that newborn screening programs detect about one infant with congenital hypothyroidism for
every 4000 live births. However, up to five false-positive screenings may occur for every one
confirmed case of congenital hypothyroidism. It is known as well that if a mother has an
untreated thyroid disease she can possibly pass it on to her fetus.
Rose, Verna L. “Screening Guidelines for Thyroid Disease.” American Family
Physician. v. 59 no 2 (Jan. 15, 1999) p. 478.
The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) has
issued updated screening guidelines for thyroid disease. These guidelines note that 1 in 71 women
over 50 years of age has unsuspected thyroid disease that will respond to treatment. This article
suggests that all women over 50 should be screened for thyroid disease.
Shomon, Mary. “Diagnosis: Hypothyroidism! – Answers to Some Common Questions.”
Thyroid Disease. January 2000.
http://thyroid.about.com/health/thyroid/library/weekly/aa072197.htm (27 Jan
This article addresses concerns from those diagnosed with hypothyroidism such as side effects of
medicines, long term health risks, and disappearance of symptoms. Answers to questions include
the fact that side effects of thyroid hormone replacement drugs are pretty rare, though they may
take as long as 10-16 weeks before the symptoms are gone. Also written is the key issue or focus
of treatment which is to speed up the metabolism which may include not only taking medicine, but
also may include eating less calories and increased exercise so as to not gain weight either.
Shomon, Mary. “Frequently Asked Questions on Hyperthyroidism: Part 1 of a 3–Part
Series.” Thyroid Disease. February 23, 1998.
http://thyroid.about.com/health/thyroid/library/weekly/aa022398.htm (27 Jan
This article answers some important questions and concerns about hyperthyroidism such as
“What causes hyperthyroidism?” and “What does it mean that hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune
disorder?” Also discussed is the origin of the name Graves’ Disease. The disease is named after
Robert Graves, the physician who first described this form of hyperthyroidism. In Graves’
Disease, antibodies are produced that attack some of the proteins on the surface of thyroid cells.
The article even discusses how the habit of smoking can increase the symptoms of Graves’
Shomon, Mary. “HELP! My TSH is „Normal‟ but I Think I‟m Hypothyroid.” Thyroid
Disease. January 2000.
http://thyroid.about.com/health/thyroid/library/weekly/aa111097.htm (27 Jan
This article focuses on TSH levels and what is normal and what is not. Shomon discusses how
various labs and doctors have different standards as to what is a normal level and what is not and
thus, some people find that even if they are in the normal range, they do not feel good. Once
treatment has begun it is imperative that if you switch doctors, you must inform your new doctor
of your previous doctor’s range and where you fit in, just in case the new doctor uses a different
scale. Hypothyroid symptoms also are discussed along with TSH and TRH testing procedures and
who should get which.
Shomon, Mary. “The High Cholesterol/Thyroid Connection: „Undiagnosed Thyroid
Disease May Be the Reason for Your High Cholesterol.‟” Thyroid Disease.
http://thyroid.about.com/health/thyroid/library/weekly/aa011800a.htm (27 Jan
This article discusses the connection between cholesterol levels and thyroid disease. Specifically,
the link between hypothyroidism and elevated cholesterol levels. Both can be helped through
medication, but one must be diagnosed with hypothyroidism before treatment. The article also
talks about cholesterol in general. In summary, thyroid testing and subsequent treatment for
hypothyroidism can restore the body’s metabolism to normal and result in lower cholesterol levels
and decreased heart disease risk.
Shomon, Mary. “Thyroid Disease: The Dangerous Downside of Soy Products.”
Thyroid Disease. January 2000.
http://thyroid.about.com/health/thyroid/library/weekly/aa083099.htm (27 Jan
This article discusses the composition of soy milk and milk products and why it can cause
hypothyroidism to occur in children. This is particularly interesting to me because as a baby I
was raised on soy milk and milk products. Soy milk and products have isoflavones which act as
anti-thyroid agents. The grain millet also contains high levels of flavonoids, and is commonly
known as problematic for thyroid function. One study, discussed in this article, found that thyroid
problems were almost triple in those soy formula fed children compared to their siblings and
healthy unrelated children.
“Testing and Diagnosis.” Graves‟ Disease. January 2000.
http://drkoop.com/conditions/graves_disease/page_74_369.asp (27 Jan 2000).
This website detailed the functions of the hormones produced by the thyroid. Specifically, it
detailed the relationships between the pituitary and both T3 and T4 hormones. It also gave the
normal ranges for both types of thyroid hormones. Information on TSH was provided along with
how various types of hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed as well.
“The Facts About Hyperthyroidism.”
http://www.jmedpharma.com/html/hyperthyroidism.html (19 Jan 2000).
This online article is a great reference by Jones Pharma Incorporated, which details the many
aspects of hyperthyroidism. This article also mentions that Graves’ disease tends to run in
families, but no one yet understands what triggers the disease to occur. As for the diagnosis
section, a low blood TSH level strongly suggests that a patient is hyperthyroid. At the end of this
article there are listed more organizations and references to check out for more information,
which were helpful since questions arise during my research .
The Facts About Hypothyroidism. Jones Medical Industries, INC. St. Louis, MO.
This pamphlet details the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism as well as diagnosis and
treatment options. Also given is a list of the various thyroid function tests and some general
information about the thyroid gland itself. Places to call for more information are given on the
back cover. Although this pamphlet is small, it gives a great summary of hypothyroidism.
“The Nutritional Health of your Thyroid.”
http://www.galxymall.com/retail/healthpartner/thyroid/graves.htm (19 Jan 2000).
This website offered information on what exactly the thyroid does and theories as to why thyroid
diseases occur. Some experts believe that the degeneration of the thyroid is due to nutritional
deficiencies while others believe it is just due to age and stress factors. Suggestions also were
made as to how a person’s diet should be changed in order to help combat the effects of a thyroid
“Thyroid Fun Stuff.” Thyroid Home Page. January 1997.
http://www.thyroid.com/fun.htm (27 Jan 2000).
This article discusses some famous people who had both hyper and hypo thyroid disease such as
both George and Barbara Bush, who have hyperthyroidism, as well as their dog Millie. This
article also includes humorous stories written by not famous people about their experiences with
thyroid disease. One story talks about how in the old west the method of treatment for goiter
diseases was to wrap a snake around the person’s neck and let the snake move over the goiter
until it disappeared!
“Thyroid Problems.” Thyroid Problems. http://www.med-
help.com/ThyroidProblems.html (19 Jan 2000).
This website described the functions of the thyroid in general and discussed the hormones
released by the thyroid and their importance to the functioning of certain bodily processes. Goiter
problems also were discussed. Signs and symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
were discussed as well. Treatment options for both disorders were briefly described along with
“Thyroid Problems and Pregnancy.” The Kelly G. Ripken Program. January 1998.
http://thyroid-ripken.med.jhu.edu/info-pregnancy.html (19 Jan 2000).
This website in general is a great one for information on thyroid disease because Kelly Ripken
herself suffers from hyperthyroidism. This article however discusses the connection between
thyroid disease, pregnancy and treatment. Often it also is not unusual for a woman to develop a
thyroid problem shortly after having a baby. This is termed postpartum thyroiditis and usually
goes away after about 4 months. Once this occurs, the person is more susceptible for it to occur
after each child thereafter.
“Thyroid Problems: Too Little Hormone = Hypothyroidism.” Thyroid Problems.
January 1999. http://www.healthtouch.com/level1/leaflets/tfa/tfa010.htm (23 Jan
This article, by the Thyroid Foundation of America, discusses the basic facts of hypothyroidism,
symptoms, and treatment options. The article also says that between 8 and 9 million Americans
have hypothyroid problems. It mentions the connection between being a member of a family with
a history of thyroid disorders and hypothyroidism as well. As for treatment options, doctors now
are trying to steer people away from using desiccated animal thyroid which is a generic medicine
often given to patients in the past because the amount of medication in each pill varied and thus
determining the specific dosage was difficult.
“Treatments of Graves‟ Disease: Beta-Blockers and other treatments.” Graves‟
Disease: Beta-Blocking Medications. June 14, 1999.
http://www.tsh.org/publications/pt2txbeta.html (27 Jan 2000).
This article, as given by the title, discusses in particular beta-blockers as well as iodine
treatments. I did not realize that beta-blockers could make asthma worse which is important to
me because I have mild asthma and have taken beta-blockers initially when I was first diagnosed.
Also mentioned was how diabetics should be told that when taking beta-blockers, these drugs can
obscure the warning signs of low blood sugar.
Walpert, Naomi. “The Highs and Lows of Autoimmune Thyroid Disease.” Nursing 98.
v. 28 no 12 (Dec. 1998) pp. 58-60.
This article discusses autoimmune thyroid disease. Tissue and organ metabolism is regulated by 2
iodine containing hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Thus, malfunctions in the thyroid
gland can have serious implications for a patient’s metabolism. Two examples that illustrate the
diagnosis of both hyper and hypo thyroidism are described. Sidebars examine the interpretation
of thyroid function tests and eye problems linked to autoimmunity
Zamula, Evelyn. “Many Treatments Available: Thyroid Disorders Often Unsuspected.”
FDA Consumer. v. 26 (Dec. 1992) pp. 34-9.
This article discusses how the thyroid gland can become enlarged if a person lacks sufficient
dietary iodine. The gland takes dietary iodine from the bloodstream and uses it to make iodine
containing- hormones called thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones regulate the rate at
which calories are burned, help slow or quicken the heartbeat, raise or lower body temperature,
and influence the rate at which food moves through the digestive tract. The article also discusses
the symptoms, causes, and treatment of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.