January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and if you or a loved one suspects thyroid issues are at play in your everyday health, it is important to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment of a problematic thyroid. We’re here to help!
What Is A Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small gland that sits low on the front part of your neck and is responsible for producing hormones that play a crucial role in many of the body’s systems — from cells and tissues to organs like the heart, brain, liver and kidneys.
The American Thyroid Association shares that “the thyroid’s job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormones help the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.”
When the thyroid is at a normal, healthy size, you cannot feel it. If you happen to notice any lumps or bulges when you swallow, make it a point to visit your doctor immediately.
The Two Most-Common Thyroid Disorders
Different disorders can arise when it comes to a dysfunctional thyroid. We break down the most common thyroid issues below.
Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid is overactive, meaning that it is producing too much of its own hormone. Graves’ Disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism and occurs when nodules on the thyroid can cause the gland to overproduce its hormones.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- racing heart
- increased sweating
- weight loss
- muscle weakness
- trouble sleeping
- brittle hair and nails
Visit your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, and a blood test will be conducted to determine your thyroid levels.
Hypothyroidism is the exact opposite of hyperthyroidism: the thyroid is producing too little of its own hormone. Hypothyroidism is often caused by Hashimoto’s Disease, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the thyroid gland and its ability to produce hormones.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases shares that around 4.6% of Americans over the age of 12, suffer from hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- dry skin
- weight gain
- slow heart rate
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your doctor. They will conduct blood tests to check your thyroid levels.
For more information on thyroid-related issues, check out Healthline’s list of “6 Common Thyroid Disorders & Problems.”
Healthcare professionals encourage those affected by thyroid disorders to spread awareness about the prevention, treatment and a cure for thyroid-related diseases. If you’d like to learn more or share your story, use the hashtags #ThyroidAwareness and #Give2Thyroid on social media.
You can also take action during Thyroid Awareness Month by swallowing sips of water and paying close attention to whether you feel any lumps in the front of your neck or by making an appointment with your healthcare professional if you have any specific concerns.
While anyone can be affected by thyroid disorders, women are five times more likely to develop thyroid problems than men. If you are a woman in your 40s, check out our list of tips to maintain good heart health, with hypothyroidism being one of the factors to consider.
It is encouraging to share that with a proper diagnosis, thyroid disorders can be successfully treated so that you and your loved ones can go on to lead healthy lives. Make an appointment with your doctor today to discuss concerns you have about your thyroid.
Keep your health top of mind. Download our Midlife Health Screenings for Men & Women checklist to learn more about what kind of health screenings you’ll need as you age.