Thyroid gland is a very important gland that produces thyroid hormones. These hormones bind nuclear receptors and cause changes in the genetic expression to elicit their effects. The effects are widespread and have action on every organ of the body. These hormones help in maintaining the basal metabolism of the body. The main hormones are T4, thyroxine and T3, triiodothyronine. These hormones need external supply of iodine for their active form. Thyroid gland also makes another important hormone, calcitonin that has a role in calcium and phosphate homeostasis. They have actions on carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.

Thyroid hormones are essential to the normal growth and development of human beings. Where iodine is deficient, endemic goiter and cretinism has been observed. The government’s drive for the use of iodized salt has solved this problem and the cases of abnormal development because of iodine deficiencies has almost become nil.

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Frequently asked questions about Thyroid

What are the treatment options for hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism can be treated by oral ingestion of levothyroxine tablets. This is the mainstay treatment of hypothyroidism. The patient starts feeling better after taking medication and the symptoms associated with it start getting better.

What are the treatment options for hyperthyroidism?

Several treatments are available for hyperthyroidism but it depends on the patient’s physical condition, age, etiology (cause) for the disease, severity and preference. The main approaches include:

  • Radioactive iodine taken orally gets absorbed in the thyroid gland and shrinks it. The excess disappears in some weeks to months.
  • Antithyroid medications prevent the thyroid gland from producing the hormones. These include methimazole and propylthiouracil. Symptoms usually start resolving within weeks to months of starting the medications. With these treatments, some get complete remission while some may have relapses.
  • Beta blockers are used to treat the symptoms caused due to over sympathetic activity. These include tremor, palpitations and a rapid heart rate.
  • Thyroidectomy (surgical removal of most of the thyroid gland) is done when other options are either not viable or are exhausted.
Is there a cure for hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism can be managed well by taking levothyroxine tablets. It is usually not possible to cure the disease but the management is quite easy.

How can exophthalmos be treated?

Exophthalmos can be surgically treated by performing occuloplasty. The surgical options include:

  • Orbital decompression involves enlarging the orbit of the eye to make more room for the eye muscle and tissue.
  • Eye muscle surgery is done to correct the abnormal eye muscles.
  • Eyelid surgery is done to protect the cornea and the outer eyeball from damage.
What are the different type of thyroid cancers?

The two main types of thyroid cancers are thyroid adenomas and thyroid carcinomas. Adenomas usually present as solitary painless masses that are discovered on routine physical examination. Local symptoms may be caused by larger masses which include difficulty in swallowing. Carcinomas have an excellent prognosis and produce symptoms depending on their presence.

Recent Articles

Thyroid hormones are essential to the maintenance of basal metabolic rate and have myriad effects on all the systems of the body. Hypo or hyper secretion of these hormones leads to hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, respectively. Both these cause many problems in the body

  • Hypothyroidism: There are several types of hypothyroidism including congenital hypothyroidism, autoimmune hypothyroidism, iatrogenic hypothyroidism, and secondary hypothyroidism. Cretinism is hypothyroidism developed in infancy or early childhood. Clinical features of cretinism include severe intellectual disability, short stature, coarse facial features, a protruding tongue and umbilical hernia. Myxedema refers to hypothyroidism developing in the older child or adult. The clinical features include generalized fatigue, apathy, and mental sluggishness. 
  • Hyperthyroidism: It is caused by the over-secretion of thyroid hormones which increase the basal metabolic rate. Skin of these patients become soft, warm, and flushed because the peripheral blood vessels dilate, the adaptations that serve to increase heat loss. Intolerance to heat is common. These patients also have cardiac manifestations that include elevated cardiac contractility and output which are caused as a result of increased peripheral oxygen requirements. Tachycardia, palpitations and cardiomegaly are common. Arrhythmias occur frequently in older patients. Congestive heart failure may develop in older adults with pre-existing cardiac disease. Hyperactivity, tremor, emotional instability, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and insomnia are common because of overactive sympathetic nervous system. Exophthalmos occur in Graves disease. Osteoporosis occur because of increased bone resorption, increasing cortical bone porosity and reducing trabecular volume. 
  • Thyroiditis: The three most common forms of thyroiditis are Hashimoto thyroiditis, granulomatous (De Quervan's) thyroiditis and subacute lymphocytic thyroiditis. Clinical features may include painless enlargement of thyroid gland.

Apart from these, cancers of the thyroid gland can occur. The usual cancers are thyroid adenomas and thyroid carcinomas.  

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