Did you know around 20 million Americans are affected by thyroid disease? While most of us have heard of our thyroid gland, its job can be unclear and symptoms of disease often go undetected. Keep reading to learn more about the thyroid in honor of Thyroid Disease Awareness Month.
What is the thyroid and what does it do?
The thyroid is a gland in your neck that’s in charge of your metabolism and creating new proteins. It’s a part of the endocrine system, which affects most of the body’s organs. Your thyroid is in charge of:
- Skin health.
- Menstrual cycles.
- Calcium levels.
- The nervous system.
- Heart and cholesterol levels.
- Controlling brain development, body temperature, breath and fat production.
What is thyroid disease and how can I identify the symptoms?
Thyroid disease can affect your whole body, but it can be difficult to detect. Here are a few examples of thyroid disease and its symptoms.
Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland overworks and is most common in people older than 50. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include insomnia, increased heart rate, anxiety, weight loss, increased appetite, increased sweating, diarrhea, hair loss, heat sensitivity and dry, thin skin.
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland underworks and is most common in those older than 60. Most of the symptoms accompanied with hypothyroidism come with age, which is why hypothyroidism is hard to detect. These symptoms include sensitivity to cold and/or heat, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, anxiety, depression, slow body movements, itchy or sore scalp, muscle aches and brittle hair and nails.
Hashimoto’s Disease is when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland and works to destroy it. Hashimoto’s is most common among middle-aged women but can occur at any age. This type of thyroid disease affects more than 14 million Americans. Symptoms are often subtle and can go undetected for many years by mimicking symptoms of other conditions. These symptoms include fatigue, depression, constipation, mild weight gain, dry skin, thinning hair, heavy or irregular menstruation and cold intolerance.
How can I tell if I have thyroid disease?
While the only way you can accurately tell if you have thyroid disease is through bloodwork, there are ways to check at home. One way is by performing regular self-checks for lumps – a common indicator.
To perform a self-check:
- Tilt your head back and take a sip of water.
- Swallow and watch your neck for signs of bulging.
- Repeat step one a few times, still checking for bulging.
- If you discover a bulge or enlarged gland, contact your doctor.
Even though thyroid disease can be hard to detect, it’s manageable with the proper treatment.
Please speak to one of our on-site clinicians during your next appointment if you’d like more information.