Thyroid Diseases

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1. Are any thyroid diseases hereditary? Yes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease may run in families. These are autoimmune diseases.

2. Are thyroid diseases more common in men or women? Hypothyroidism is 10 times more common in women.

3. Are certain people more likely to get thyroid disease? Yes apart from women and those with a family history, patients with other autoimmune diseases (e.g diabetes, pernicious anaemia, vitiligo) are more likely to develop thyroid disease. Patients with Down’s Syndrome and a condition called Turner’s syndrome are also more likely to get the disease.

4. Is thyroid disease permanent? Hyperthyroidism, depending on the cause often resolves in 1-2 years however some people may require anti-thyroid drugs for life. Hypothyroidism however is usually permanent and requires life-long treatment with thyroid hormone.

5. Do I have to pay for my thyroid treatment? People with hypothyroidism or conditions where they need to take extra thyroxine do not need to pay for prescriptions.

6. Can I still have a baby with a thyroid problem? You can still have a baby if you have a thyroid problem. However it is important for the baby for your thyroid levels to be adequately controlled during pregnancy and you should speak to a doctor if you are planning to become pregnant. Sometimes however thyroid problems can develop for the first time during a pregnancy. Thyroxine is safe to take in pregnancy as are anti-thyroid drugs.

7. How often is pregnancy complicated by a thyroid problem? Thyroid problems complicate 5% to 9% of all pregnancies. They can occur during pregnancy but can also occur after giving birth.

8. Are there any side effects from the medication? There are not usually any side effects from taking thyroxine. However if you take too much thyroxine you may develop symptoms of hyperthyroidism as the thyroid hormone levels in your blood will become too high. Therefore when you are on medication it is important to get your thyroid function checked regularly. If you are taking carbimazole you should not feel unwell as there are usually no ill-effects but the medication can cause your cells that fight infection to lower. This may mean that you end up with a fever, sore throat or other signs of infection. You should tell your doctor if any of these develop so a blood test can be done. Your thyroid hormone levels may also drop too low on anti-thyroid drugs such as carbimazole and therefore you may also develop symptoms of hypothyroidism. In this case you may need to take thyroxine to bring the levels back up. Therefore it also important if you are on treatment for hyperthyroidism to get your thyroid function monitored at regular intervals to ensure your that your thyroid hormone concentrations are in the correct range.

For more FAQs visit the British Thyroid Foundation web page 'About the Thyroid: FAQs'.

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