Thyroid disease is a common health issue that often goes undiagnosed. This little butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck has a lot of responsibility. When it isn't doing its job, many things can go wrong.
The main event for the thyroid gland is to produce the hormones that are needed to help regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and metabolism. Every cell in the body is reliant on thyroid hormones to function properly.
The problem with thyroid disease is that you may not even know you have it. Symptoms of an issue with your thyroid can mask many other health issues, which is why many doctors do not routinely check thyroid levels. Most people believe that their thyroid levels are checked with annual bloodwork. But a typical CBC (Complete Blood Count) ordered for your annual physical usually does not test the thyroid.
Symptoms of thyroid disease include:
Typically, when a doctor orders routine bloodwork, a thyroid screening is often left off of that list and that’s why thyroid disease goes undiagnosed until the symptoms become severe. The quicker the diagnosis, the quicker you are on the road to feeling better.
A common misconception about the thyroid is that it is only responsible for metabolism and that if your thyroid is considered “slow” or “hypo”, once you start taking a hormone supplement, your weight stabilizes. This is often not the case and it can take months or even years to get your thyroid regulated properly. But before we get into that, let's take a look at the different types of thyroid disease.
In Hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones the body needs.
This can cause symptoms such as:
Hypothyroidism can be caused by an immune disorder known as Hashimoto's Disease, iodine deficiency, or damage to the gland by physical force or certain medications. If hypothyroidism is left untreated, it can progress to heart problems, an enlarged thyroid gland (a goiter), and infertility.
Synthetic thyroid hormones are typically prescribed for those diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Patients are typically prescribed a low dose to start and blood levels are checked after six weeks. At that time, medication may be adjusted. However, it is important to note that a blood test is not the only indication that you are on the right dose of synthetic thyroid hormone. Tell your doctor how you are feeling. Make sure you report any physical, mental, emotional or cognitive changes you may be experiencing.
When the thyroid produces too many hormones, this is known as hyperthyroidism.
An autoimmune disorder known as Grave's disease is a common cause of hyperthyroidism.
When your thyroid is producing too many thyroid hormones, severe complications can occur, such as:
There are several ways to treat hyperthyroidism:
Small growths that appear on the thyroid gland called nodules and usually do not cause any symptoms. They are typically only found during an exam or x-ray. Most thyroid nodules are benign, but a biopsy may be performed to test the fluid within the nodule if one is suspicious.
Thyroid nodules are treated by:
Thankfully, thyroid cancer is a rare disease. It is found in more women than men. The good news is that it has a high success rate when detected early.
If you are diagnosed with thyroid disease, it is very important to take your medication when as directed. For example, if your bloodwork has determined that your thyroid is not producing enough hormones and you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, taking your medication in the morning before breakfast is vital to thyroid health. Thyroid hormones must be taken every day at about the same time on an empty stomach 30 minutes to an hour before you eat in order for proper absorption.
Thankfully, most thyroid issues can be easily treated especially when detected early. But the longer it goes undiagnosed, the more harm you can do to your thyroid, so if you suspect you may have a thyroid issue, talk to your doctor. The sooner you can manage the disease, the sooner you will feel better.
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Linda Guerrera is the Digital Content Manager for Health Products For You. As an award-winning media professional, she has spent her entire career as on on-air radio personality, program director, voice-over artist ...
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