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Updated 14 May 2023 | Approved By

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Thyroid Diseases – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Thyroid diseases are a common health concern affecting many individuals in Australia. The thyroid gland in the neck plays a crucial role in controlling metabolism, growth, and development by producing thyroid hormones. However, problems or diseases of the thyroid gland can lead to various issues. Thyroid diseases are prevalent in Australia, particularly in women and those with a family history. Approximately 10-15% of Australians are affected by thyroid disorders [1]. Most thyroid disorders in the country include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer. If you suspect you may have a thyroid disease or have been diagnosed with one, don't hesitate to seek online GP support with 24-7 Medcare. With the convenience of online healthcare services, you can connect with experienced doctors from the comfort of your home. Discuss your symptoms, concerns, and medical history with a qualified doctor who can provide personalised guidance and advice.

What are Thyroid Diseases?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the front of the neck, responsible for producing hormones that regulate various bodily functions, including metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. When the thyroid gland is not functioning correctly, it can lead to multiple thyroid diseases. The most common thyroid diseases or disorders in Australia include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid nodules, and cancers [2].

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland in the neck is not producing enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone is essential for regulating the body's metabolism. So when there is not enough of it, people with hypothyroidism may experience problems such as fatigue, weight gain, coldness, and depression [2].

What is Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland in the neck produces too much thyroid hormone. The excess hormone can cause the body's metabolism to speed up, leading to problems such as weight loss, increased heart rate, sweating, anxiety, and tremors [2].

What are Thyroid Nodules and Cancers?

Thyroid nodules are abnormal growths or lumps that develop in the thyroid gland. Most thyroid nodules are benign, which means they are not cancerous and do not pose a significant health risk. However, in some cases, thyroid nodules can be cancerous. Types of thyroid cancers include follicular, medullary, anaplastic and papillary thyroid cancer [2].

What Are the Causes of Thyroid Diseases?

It's important to note that the exact causes of thyroid diseases can be complex and multifactorial, and in many cases, the cause may not be fully understood. Some of the most common causes of thyroid diseases include [1]:
  • Autoimmune disorders: Autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease, can cause damage to the thyroid gland and affect its ability to produce hormones properly.
  • Iodine deficiency or excess: Iodine is a mineral that is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. Too little or much intake can disrupt thyroid hormone production, leading to thyroid diseases.
  • Genetics: Some thyroid diseases, such as thyroid cancer and familial thyroid disorders, can have a genetic component and be inherited from family members.
  • Radiation exposure: Exposure to ionising radiation, such as during medical treatments or nuclear accidents, can increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer and other thyroid diseases.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as lithium and amiodarone, can affect thyroid hormone production and contribute to developing thyroid diseases.


Thyroid Disease Symptoms

The symptoms of thyroid diseases can vary depending on the specific condition and the severity of the disease. Below is a list of general symptoms associated with common thyroid diseases. Having these symptoms does not mean you have this condition. Conversely, if you have these conditions, it does not necessarily mean you will experience these symptoms.


Hypothyroidism occurs when insufficient thyroid hormones are being produced. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include [4]:
  • Low energy and weakness
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Constipation
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Reduced memory and concentration
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
  • Hoarseness or a husky voice
  • Puffy face
  • Decreased sweating


Hyperthyroidism occurs when too many thyroid hormones are being produced. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include [5]:
  • Weight loss or difficulty gaining weight
  • Increased appetite
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Tremors or shakiness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased sweating
  • Heat intolerance
  • Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue
  • Light or missed menstrual periods
  • Changes in vision, such as eye irritation, redness, or bulging
  • Thickening of the skin, particularly on the shins and feet

Thyroid Nodules

Most thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms, often found incidentally during a physical exam or imaging tests [6]. However, in some cases, thyroid nodules can cause symptoms such as:
  • A lump or swelling in the neck that can be felt or seen
  • Pain or discomfort in the neck or throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or a feeling of fullness in the throat
  • Hoarseness or other changes in voice
  • In rare cases, large thyroid nodules can cause difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Thyroid Cancer

The symptoms of thyroid cancer can vary depending on the type and stage of cancer, but some common symptoms include [7]:
  • A lump or swelling in the neck that can be felt or seen. It may also be rapidly growing
  • Pain or discomfort in the neck or throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or a feeling of fullness in the throat
  • Hoarseness or other changes in voice
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, especially when lying down
  • Coughing up blood


Treatment of Thyroid Diseases

The treatment options for thyroid diseases depend on the specific condition and severity of the symptoms. Also, proper tests must be carried out to ensure the correct treatment is received. Always seek advice from a medical doctor. Below are some common treatments for thyroid disease:

Treatment for Hypothyroidism

One common cause of hypothyroidism is low iodine, and this problem can be addressed through dietary changes. In other situations where the thyroid gland is damaged or failing, doctors may recommend hormone replacement [2].

Treatment for Hyperthyroidism

Treatment for hyperthyroidism may include medications that block the production or release of thyroid hormones, radioactive iodine therapy to destroy overactive thyroid cells, or in rare cases, surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland [5].

Treatment for Thyroid nodules

Treatment for thyroid nodules depends on the size and type of the nodule. Small nodules may be monitored with regular ultrasounds, while larger or suspicious nodules may need to be surgically removed [8].

Thyroid Cancer Treatment

Treatment for thyroid cancer may include surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland, radioactive iodine therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells, and in some cases, chemotherapy or external radiation therapy [7].

Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.

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  1. National Prescribing Service (2019). Thyroid disease challenges in primary care. Retrieved from
  2. Brito, J. P., Morris, J. C., & Montori, V. M. (2016). Managing thyroid disease in general practice. Medical Journal of Australia, 205(4), 179-184. doi: 10.5694/mja16.00485
  3. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (2015). Thyroid disease: Long-term management of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Retrieved from
  4. Better Health Channel (2011). Thyroid - Hypothyroidism. Retrieved from
  5. Better Health Channel (2011). Thyroid - Hyperthyroidism. Retrieved from
  6. Thyroid Foundation of Canada (n.d.). Thyroid Nodules. Retrieved from
  7. Cancer Council Australia (2023). Thyroid cancer. Retrieved from
  8. UpToDate. (2023). Thyroid nodules: Beyond the basics. Retrieved May 6, 2023, from