Why Is the Thyroid Important to Protect?

Tests like X-rays, dental tomography and CT scans, or radiotherapy treatment can expose the thyroid to radiation. Paradoxically, although radiation is used extensively in diagnostics and cancer treatment, many cancers can result from radiation-induced damage.

The thyroid gland is particularly sensitive to the effects of radiation. It is essential to protect it from any harmful consequences.

Barrier Technologies provides a choice of 3 different radiation protection thyroid collars available with either Magnetic or Velcro closure:

  • Boomerang Thyroid Shield: our standard collar.
  • Visor Thyroid Collar: with enhanced neck protection.
  • Disposable Thyroid Collar: for short-term use.

We also supply supplementary protective gear including aprons, gloves, eye-wear, and protective barriers.

When the T3 and T4 hormone levels become too high or too low, your body will develop hyperthyroidism when the hormones are in your bloodstream. This could affect the following  body functions:

  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hair loss
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Depression

If you have been exposed to radiation the thyroid may absorb the radiative iodine which would result in your body developing cancer years after the exposure. 

If you suspect that there is a problem with your thyroid you should seek medical treatment. Your physician can test your thyroid hormone levels. If there is a problem there are conventional treatments such as medication or surgery, lifestyle changes, special exercise, and supplements.

What Happens If The Thyroid Is Not Protected From Radiation?

If the thyroid gland is exposed to radiation, problems may not be immediately apparent. Radiation-induced thyroid diseases can take years, even decades, to develop. The most common warning signs that thyroid function is impaired are:

  1. Unexplained weight gain or loss
  2. High cholesterol
  3. Joint and muscle pains
  4. Fatigue and insomnia
  5. Pain and/or swelling in the neck
  6. Anxiety and depression
  7. Changes in hair and/or skin
  8. Menstrual or fertility problems
  9. Changes in bowel habits
  10. Abnormal heart rate or rhythm

If you suspect thyroid disease, seek medical advice. A physician can test thyroid hormone levels and recommend a suitable treatment, supplements, or lifestyle changes.

The thyroid needs iodine to produce hormones that regulate metabolism. The iodine is absorbed by the bloodstream.

The thyroid is not able to distinguish between stable iodine and radioactive iodine and the body will absorb whatever it can. Most nuclear accidents release radioactive iodine into the atmosphere and can be absorbed by the body. If the radioactive iodine is absorbed it can cause thyroid cancer years after exposure. 

Multiple factors will impact the chances of developing thyroid problems after radiation exposure. The best way to be protected against radiation exposure is to wear protective clothing such as:

  1. Lightweight lead-free aprons
  2. Thyroid collars
  3. Leaded eyewear
  4. Radiation reducing gloves
  5. X-ray accessories
  6. Mobile barriers

All of these products are available at very affordable prices at Barrier Technologies.

Common Causes of Thyroid Disease

There are many diseases of the thyroid and many causative factors. These include autoimmune issues, iodine deficiency, and genetics. Sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause, but evidence indicates that previous exposure to radiation, particularly in childhood, has a significant clinical impact. The link between radiation and thyroid cancer is well-documented.

Broadly, thyroid diseases can be divided into two categories according to how they manifest:

  1. Hyperthyroidism: Too much thyroxine is produced, which speeds up metabolism. This is called an overactive thyroid.
  2. Hypothyroidism: Too little thyroxine is produced, which slows down metabolism. This is called an underactive thyroid.

Common Symptoms of Thyroid Disease

Symptoms of an overactive or underactive thyroid are used to help diagnose the specific thyroid disease. These are:

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Elevated pulse
  • Dry eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Insomnia
  • Thinning hair
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Dry skin
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Sluggishness
  • Puffiness
  • Skin changes
  • Hair loss
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain

Types of Thyroid Disease

The table provides an overview of the types of thyroid diseases:

Thyroid cancers These are more common in people with a history of exposure to high doses of radiation or have been treated for other conditions using radiotherapy. Panoramic dental X-rays have been implicated.
Types of thyroid cancer are:

  • Papillary
  • Follicular
  • Hürthle cell
  • Medullary
  • Anaplastic
Thyroiditis This is an infection of the thyroid gland. It often leads to hypothyroidism, but this can be reversed in most types. Unfortunately, radiation-induced thyroiditis usually causes permanent hypothyroidism.
Types of thyroiditis are:

  • Hashimoto’s
  • Silent or painless
  • Post-partum
  • Subacute or de Quervain’s
  • Acute or suppurative
  • Drug-induced
  • Radiation-induced
Thyroid nodules These are lumps that form within the thyroid. They can be solitary, multiple, fluid-filled, or solid. Sometimes they can become cancerous. They may be caused by radiation exposure. Nodules often lead to hyperthyroidism.
Types of thyroid nodules are:

  • Colloid
  • Follicular adenomas
  • Cystic
Goiters The thyroid becomes very swollen, usually from insufficient iodine. (Iodine is essential for the production of thyroxine and the thyroid expands to try to compensate for the deficiency.) This may also occur in patients receiving radiotherapy treatments. Goiters can cause hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Types of goiters are:

  • Colloid
  • Toxic nodular or multinodular
  • Non-toxic or sporadic

 

Who Is Affected by Thyroid Disease?

Thyroid disease can occur at any stage of life, from birth to old age. Risk factors are:

  • A family history of thyroid disease.
  • Medical conditions such as pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, primary adrenal insufficiency, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and Turner syndrome.
  • A medication that is high in iodine (amiodarone).
  • Over 60 years of age, especially women.
  • Have had treatment for a past thyroid condition or cancer (thyroidectomy or radiation).

People in professions at risk of radiation exposure should be careful to protect their important thyroid glands. This includes radiology professionals, baggage screeners, mine workers, flight crews, nuclear power plant workers and people in the military.
Anybody undergoing diagnostic tests that use radiation could be at risk, particularly young children. Also, patients being treated with radiotherapy, whether it is beam radiation (teletherapy) or radioactive seed implants (brachytherapy) are at high risk of developing thyroid cancers.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Thyroid Diseases

Thyroid gland diseases can be difficult to diagnose. After a physical examination, blood tests are done to determine thyroid hormone levels. Imaging tests may also be required.

Treatments differ for overactive and underactive thyroids:

  • Hyperthyroidism: anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine, beta-blockers, or thyroidectomy (surgical removal) prevent the overproduction of thyroid hormones.
  • Hypothyroidism: Synthetic thyroid hormones, for example, levothyroxine, replace natural ones.

Conclusion

Barrier Technologies cannot protect you from thyroid disease. However, our affordable thyroid collars and other protective gear offer you the assurance that everything possible is being done to guard you against the ravages of thyroid cancer. Our expert consultants will advise you on the best shielding from the harmful effects of radiation. Contact us today to find out more about how to protect yourself and those in your care.