Thyroid Disease

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located below the voice box in the neck and produces important hormones that regulate multiple functions in the body, such as metabolism, temperature, growth, and energy levels, to name a few. Iodine, which is found in enriched foods, is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, thyroxine, and triiodothyronine. Sometimes, the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormone. This is called hypothyroidism. Similarly, the thyroid can be overactive, which is referred to as hyperthyroidism.


Importance for PLHIV50+

Thyroid disorders are common, affecting approximately 1 in 7 older Australians. Hypothyroidism becomes more common as we get older, and is more likely to affect women than men. They appear to affect People living with well-controlled HIV at a similar rate to the general population, though historically rates seemed higher.  

The causes of both hyper- and hypo-thyroidism are diverse, and include iodine deficiency or sudden excess, thyroid and other cancers affecting the thyroid, which may mean it needs to be surgically removed, autoimmune diseases, like Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s, as well as bacterial and viral infections.  

Symptoms of thyroid disease depend on whether hyper- or hypothyroid is present. An underactive thyroid can lead to lethargy, weight gain, depression or low mood, hair loss, sensitivity to cold temperatures, constipation, low libido, and muscle weakness. The symptoms of an overactive thyroid are the opposite of these, and also include palpitations, sweating, and visual problems.  

Treatment of thyroid disease may involve, tablets to reduce the activity of the thyroid gland or replace thyroid hormone as necessary. Sometimes, removal of part or all of the thyroid gland by surgery is needed.