Archive for November, 2006

Thyroid Disease: Overview

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Thyroid.gif Thyroid disease occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t supply the proper amount of hormones needed by the body. If the thyroid is overactive, it releases too much thyroid hormone into the bloodstream, resulting in hyperthyroidism. (“Hyper” is from the Greek, meaning “over” or “above.”) Hyperthyroidism causes the body to use up energy more quickly than it should, and chemical activity (like metabolism) in the cells speeds up.

An underactive thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, resulting in hypothyroidism. (“Hypo” means “under” or “below.”) When the amount of hormone released into the bloodstream is below normal, the body uses up energy more slowly, and chemical activity (metabolism) in the cells slows down.

Although they are two different conditions, in both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism the thyroid can become larger than normal. An enlarged thyroid gland is a lump that can be felt under the skin at the front of the neck. When it is large enough to see easily, it’s called a goiter. People who don’t get enough iodine in their diets also can get an enlarged thyroid, but this is rare in the United States because foods here usually supply enough iodine.

Hypothyroidism

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Hypothyroidism is most commonly a result of an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in which the body’s own immune cells attack and destroy the thyroid gland. Since the activity of the thyroid gland is controlled by other hormones from the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus of the brain, defects in these areas can also cause underactivity of the thyroid gland. Previous surgeries on the thyroid or a history of irradiation to the neck are other causes of hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can be mild or severe, but are often very subtle. People with a mild form of the condition may not have any symptoms at all. The most serious form of hypothyroidism is called myxedema, which can lead to coma and even death. An underactive thyroid gland affects all organs and functions within the body, leading to both physical and emotional symptoms.

Hyperthyroidism

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which there is overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland, causing the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood to be too high. People who have it are often said to have an “overactive thyroid”.

Thyroid hormone is a chemical substance produced by the thyroid gland and released into the bloodstream. It interacts with almost all body cells, causing them to increase their metabolic activity.

This abnormally high level of thyroid hormone typically speeds up the body’s metabolism. Metabolism is the chemical and physical processes that create the substances and generate the energy needed for cell function, growth, and division.

Common signs of hyperthyroidism

  • Fast heart rate
  • Trembling hands
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Warm moist skin
  • Hair loss
  • Staring gaze

Treatment Of Thyroid Disease

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Abnormalities of thyroid function (hyper or hypothyroidism) are usually treated medically. If there is insufficient production of thyroid hormone, this may be given in a form of a thyroid hormone pill taken daily. Hyperthyroidism is treated mostly by medical means, but occasionally it may require the surgical removal of the thyroid gland.

If there is a lump of the thyroid or a diffused enlargement (goiter), your doctor will propose a treatment plan based on the examination and your test results. Most thyroid “lumps” are benign. Often they may be treated with thyroid hormone, and this is called “suppression” therapy. The object of this treatment is to attempt shrinkage of the mass over time, usually three-six months. If the lump continues to grow during treatment when you are taking the medication, most doctors will recommend removal of the affected lump.

If the fine needle aspiration is reported as suspicious for or suggestive of cancer, then thyroid surgery is required.

Common Thyroid Diseases

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Given below are the most common Thyroid Diseases:

Graves’ Disease – This is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It is a chronic disorder in which the affected person’s immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid, causing inflammation, damage, and the production of excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – This is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Like Graves’ disease, it is a chronic autoimmune condition related to the production of antibodies that target the thyroid and cause inflammation and damage. With Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, however, the body makes decreased amounts of thyroid hormone.

Thyroid Cancer—Thyroid cancer is fairly uncommon. There are four main types of thyroid cancers: papillary, follicular, anaplastic, and medullary cancer. About 60-70% of thyroid cancer cases are papillary. This type affects more women than men and is more common in younger people. About 15% of thyroid cancers are follicular, a more aggressive type of cancert hat tends to occur in older women. Anaplastic cancer, also found in older women, accounts for about 5% of thyroid cancers and tends to be both aggressive and difficult to treat. Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) develops in the C-cells that are found throughout the thyroid. MTC produces calcitonin and may be found with other endocrine cancers in a syndrome called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome. It can also be difficult to treat if it spreads beyond the thyroid.

Thyroid Nodules—A thyroid nodule is a small lump on the thyroid gland that may be solid or a fluid-filled cyst. As many as 4% of women and 1% of men will have one or more thyroid nodules; however, the overwhelming majority of these nodules are harmless. Occasionally, thyroid nodules can be cancerous and need to be treated.

Thyroiditis—Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. It may be associated with either hypo- or hyperthyroidism. It may be painful, feeling like a sore throat, or painless. Thyroiditis may be due to autoimmune activity, an infection, exposure to a chemical that is toxic to the thyroid, or an unkown cause. Depending on the cause, it can be acute but transient or chronic.

Goiters—A thyroid goiter is a visible enlargement of the thyroid gland. In the past, this condition was relatively common and was due to a lack of iodine in the diet. Iodine is a necessary component of thyroid hormone production. Any of the diseases listed above can also cause goiters. Goiters may compress vital structures of the neck, including the trachea and esophagus. This compression can make it difficult to breathe and swallow.

Hepatitis: Overview

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, an irritation or swelling of the liver cells. There are many causes of hepatitis which include viral infections A, B and C that most of us have heard of, but also the disease also includes auto-immune hepatitis, fatty liver hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis and toxin induced hepatitis. Globally, it is estimated that around 250 million people are affected by hepatitis C. Moreover, an estimated 400 million people are chronic carriers of hepatitis B.

Each type of viral hepatitis is different. They have different characteristics and are known by alphabetical names – hepatitis A through to E. Four other types exist F, G, TTV and S.E.N-V. Behavioral precautions and treatment depends on the type of hepatitis.

Symptoms of Hepatitis

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Hepatitis produces an initial “acute phase,” often with few if any symptoms. If there are symptoms, they tend to mimic “flu-like” symptoms such as:

  • mild fever
  • muscle or joint aches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • slight abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue

The acute phase and its symptoms is rarely serious or fatal, although occasionally a so-called fulminant or rapidly progressing form leads to death.

As the condition worsens, the person also may experience these additional symptoms:

  • jaundice (yellowed skin, mucous membranes and eye-whites)
  • dark urine
  • light colored stools that may contain pus
  • itching
  • enlarged spleen (symptom of alcoholic hepatitis only)
  • hives
  • headache (symptom of toxic/drug-induced hepatitis only)
  • dizziness (symptom of toxic/drug-induced hepatitis only)
  • drowsiness (symptom of toxic/drug-induced hepatitis only)
  • circulation problems (symptom of toxic/drug-induced hepatitis only)

The course of the hepatitis and the different outcomes after the acute phase that distinguish the various types.

Types of Hepatitis

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Hepatitis is a serious disease that affects the liver and can cause long-term damage. Hepatitis B is the most common but there are several other types and associated virus.

Hepatitis A – Caused by the hepatitis A virus, Hepatius A is often spreads because of poor personal hygiene habits. You can also get hepatitis A by eating foods or drinking beverages contaminated with the virus.

Hepatitis B – The Hepatitis B virus may be found in blood and can be spread through contact with infected blood or blood products. You can get hepatitis B by injecting drugs with a dirty needle used by someone who is infected with hepatitis B virus. You can get hepatitis B by sharing razors or toothbrushes with an infected person. Hepatitis B is also spread through blood-bearing body fluids of an infected person, such as semen and vaginal secretions.  It can be spread by having sex with someone who has the disease.

Hepatitis C – The Hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with contaminated blood or by having sex with an infected person. Less commonly, hepatitis C is passed on through household contact. People who receive blood transfusions or dialysis treatments or who inject illegal drugs are most likely to get this disease. 

Hepatitis D – The Hepatitis D virus needs the Hepatitis B virus to infect the liver. People who are immune to hepatitis B virus are safe from hepatitis D. When hepatitis D becomes active, it can be extremely dangerous. In regions where the disease is less common, hepatitis D is spread by contact with infected blood and blood products. 

Hepatitis E – Hepatitis E is usually spread through impure drinking water. Outbreaks of hepatitis E have caused high death rates in pregnant women.

Radiation therapy – cancer treatment

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy, x-ray therapy, or irradiation) is the use of a certain type of energy (called ionizing radiation) to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy injures or destroys cells in the area being treated (the “target tissue”) by damaging their genetic material, making it impossible for these cells to continue to grow and divide. Although radiation damages both cancer cells and normal cells, most normal cells can recover from the effects of radiation and function properly. The goal of radiation therapy is to damage as many cancer cells as possible, while limiting harm to nearby healthy tissue.

There are different types of radiation and different ways to deliver the radiation. For example, certain types of radiation can penetrate more deeply into the body than can others. In addition, some types of radiation can be very finely controlled to treat only a small area (an inch of tissue, for example) without damaging nearby tissues and organs. Other types of radiation are better for treating larger areas.

In some cases, the goal of radiation treatment is the complete destruction of an entire tumor. In other cases, the aim is to shrink a tumor and relieve symptoms. In either case, doctors plan treatment to spare as much healthy tissue as possible.

About half of all cancer patients receive some type of radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery. In some cases, a patient may receive more than one type of radiation therapy.

Pancreatic cancer

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the pancreas.

The pancreas is a gland about 6 inches long that is shaped like a thin pear lying on its side. The wider end of the pancreas is called the head, the middle section is called the body, and the narrow end is called the tail. The pancreas lies behind the stomach and in front of the spine.

The pancreas has two main jobs in the body:

To produce juices that help digest (break down) food.
To produce hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, that help control blood sugar levels. Both of these hormones help the body use and store the energy it gets from food.

The digestive juices are produced by exocrine pancreas cells and the hormones are produced by endocrine pancreas cells. About 95% of pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells.

Possible signs of pancreatic cancer include jaundice, pain, and weight loss.

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect (find) and diagnose early.