Thyroid Awareness Month
January is Thyroid Awareness Month. While the thyroid is a vital part of the body and the way it functions, many people are unfamiliar with just how important it is. Traditionally, it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as other vital organs in the body and for the most part, people really don’t even think about their thyroid until an issue arises either involving it or affecting it. That’s why “Thyroid Awareness Month” and thyroid awareness are so important. Various health problems can be linked back to the thyroid, so understanding not just what your thyroid is but also how it works can be crucial in understanding and identifying potential issues.
In this blog, we will take a look at what exactly the thyroid is, why it is so important, and go over the different types of thyroid-related ailments and how you might be able to spot a problem with your thyroid early on.
What is the Thyroid?
Before talking about what it is that the thyroid does, it’s important to understand what exactly it is. Your thyroid is located in your neck and helps not only control your metabolism but also helps in the creation of new proteins for the body. Your thyroid is also part of the much larger endocrine system which directly affects practically every single organ in the body. That means that either directly or indirectly, the thyroid can be involved in:
- Menstrual cycles
- Heart and cholesterol levels
- The nervous system
- Regulating skin integrity
- Brain development
- Body temperature
What is Thyroid Disease?
As you can imagine, with the thyroid playing a significant role in how our bodies function, if the thyroid isn’t working properly, it can result in some significant health complications. More specifically, if the thyroid begins producing either too much or not enough hormones, it can result in a chemical imbalance in the body that can have significant consequences.
Thyroid disease occurs when the thyroid fails to produce the right amount of hormones. Thus, the thyroids of people with thyroid disease either produce too much or not enough hormones.
When the thyroid produces too many hormones, it can cause the body to use too much energy in a short period of time. On the other hand, if your thyroid produces too few hormones, it can do the opposite, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic.
While thyroid disease affects upwards of 30 million Americans, not everyone is aware that they are suffering from it. Many people go about their lives not knowing they have a thyroid condition and just chalking up their issues to other things, or even ignoring them entirely. That’s one of the many reasons why spotlighting thyroid disease through thyroid awareness month is important.
What Are the Different Types of Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid disease comes in many different forms. However, the two most common types of thyroid disease are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s Disease is also a thyroid-related condition that affects millions of people as well.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid produces a larger amount of hormones than it should. This type of thyroid disease is more common for those under the age of 50 and usually results in an enlarged thyroid gland.
When a person suffers from hyperthyroidism, they tend to have energetic spurts that can result in anxiety and weight loss. Other common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Increased appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid heart rate
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Heart palpitations
- Oversensitivity to heat
- Double vision
- Dry eyes
While hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid is essentially overworking, hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid is working slower than it should. This type of thyroid condition tends to be more prevalent in those age 60 and older.
Someone who suffers from hypothyroidism tends to have a thyroid that produces not enough hormones. As a result, that person might experience chronic fatigue and weight gain. Other common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Sensitivity to cold or heat
- Inability to lose weight
- Itchy scalp
- Poor appetite
- Brittle hair
- Muscle aches and pains
- Slow movements and speech
Also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s disease is by far the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. This disease affects almost 14 million people. While any one of any age can develop Hashimoto’s disease, it is most commonly found in middle-aged women.
Hashimoto’s disease occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the thyroid gland and thus, its ability to produce hormones. While some people might suffer from Hashimoto’s disease and have no obvious symptoms, others may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Puffy face
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain
- Heavy and irregular menstruation
- Enlarged thyroid
- Intolerance to cold
Who Is Affected the Most by Thyroid Disease?
While thyroid disease can affect anyone at any age, there are certain people who are more likely to suffer from it than others. For example, women are anywhere from 5 to 8 times more likely to be diagnosed with a thyroid condition than men. Others who have a higher risk of developing thyroid disease include:
- People age 60 and older
- People who have a family history of thyroid disease
- People who take medications high in iodine
- People who have had treatment for a past thyroid condition or cancer
- People who suffer from certain medical conditions such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus
How Can I Tell If I Have a Thyroid Condition?
Because the symptoms associated with thyroid disease can mimic many other ailments, it is not always obvious that a person might be suffering from a thyroid condition. Luckily, there are several different ways in which a person can be tested for thyroid disease, such as:
- Physical exams
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests
The easiest and most pain-free way to tell if you have a thyroid condition is to see your primary care physician for a physical exam. During this exam, your doctor will feel your neck to see if there are any growths or enlargements of the thyroid.
While a physical exam might be able to help tell if you have a thyroid issue, the most definitive way to determine if you do or do not have a thyroid issue is through a blood test. A thyroid blood test is done in order to tell if your thyroid gland is functioning properly. The blood test measures the number of hormones found in your blood.
Thyroid blood testing can help diagnose the following:
- Thyroid cancer
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Graves’ disease
- Thyroid nodule
In some cases, a blood test might not be needed to properly diagnose a thyroid condition. Even if a blood test isn’t needed, there are times when something more than a physical exam is needed. In those cases, your doctor might recommend imaging testing known as a thyroid scan. This will allow your doctor to get a better look at your thyroid and see if there is an increase in size or shape, or if there are any growths.
Thyroid scans are typically done with the use of an ultrasound. An ultrasound typically takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes and there is little to no prep required to do one. During the ultrasound, the person will lie flat on an exam table and a gel is applied to the skin over the area being examined. Ultrasounds don’t use any radiation and also don’t hurt the skin.
Is Thyroid Disease Treatable?
For those who are suffering from a thyroid condition, the good news is that it is treatable. In fact, there are a variety of treatment options available all with the goal of returning the thyroid to normal hormone levels.
For those who are suffering from hypothyroidism, your main treatment option is a thyroid replacement medication that can synthetically add thyroid hormones back into the body. On the other hand, people suffering from hyperthyroidism have a few different treatment options in addition to medication. Those other options include:
- Radioactive iodine
Interested In Learning More About Your Thyroid During Thyroid Awareness Month?
While the thyroid might not get the same amount of attention as other parts of the body, it is crucial to the function of the body as a whole. Many people live their daily lives with thyroid issues and don’t even realize it since many of the symptoms associated with thyroid conditions might not be considered too serious or are similar to ailments of other illnesses or diseases.
At Androgenix, we understand just how important the thyroid is. That’s why we offer a variety of treatment options for those who might be suffering from either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer and how we can help you get back on the right track for living a healthier and happier life.
*Unless otherwise stated, individual results may vary depending on many factors not all patients “feel” or achieve the same results.