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Thyroid Disease – Everything You Need To Know

Thyroid Disease – Everything You Need To Know
Linda Guerrera

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.  

Thyroid Symptoms 

Symptoms of thyroid disease include: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Weight changes 
  • Mood swings 
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Difficulty concentrating 

Diagnosis 

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.  

Types of Thyroid Disease 

1. Hypothyroidism  

In Hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones the body needs.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

This can cause symptoms such as: 

  • Weight gain
  • Feeling cold
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Depression
  • Constipation 
  • Brain fog and cognitive issues

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.  

2. Hyperthyroidism 

When the thyroid produces too many hormones, this is known as hyperthyroidism.  

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism 

  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations 
  • Weight loss 
  • Intolerance to heat 
  • Anxiety 
  • Irritability 
  • Shaking or tremors 
  • Enlarged thyroid gland 

An autoimmune disorder known as Grave's disease is a common cause of hyperthyroidism.   

Complications  

When your thyroid is producing too many thyroid hormones, severe complications can occur, such as: 

  • Osteoporosis 
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) 
  • Graves' ophthalmopathy - a condition of the eyes that makes them appear as though they are popping out of their sockets.  

Treatment For Hyperthyroidism

There are several ways to treat hyperthyroidism: 

  • Prescription medication to regulate the production of thyroid hormones 
  • Radioactive iodine 
  • Removal of the thyroid gland. 

3. Thyroid nodules 

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.  

Treatment for Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid nodules are treated by:  

  • Monitoring 
  • Prescription medication  
  • Surgery to remove the nodule 

4. Thyroid cancer  

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.  

Types of Thyroid Cancer

  • Papillary carcinoma 
  • Follicular carcinoma 
  • Medullary carcinoma 
  • Anaplastic carcinoma  

Treatment for Thyroid Cancer 

  • Surgery to remove the thyroid gland 
  • Radioactive iodine therapy  
  • Radiation 
  • Prescription medication 

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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HPFY Linda Guerrera

Linda Guerrera

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Linda Guerrera has been the Digital Content Manager for Health Products For You since 2022. A recipient of the New York State Broadcasters Award for Outstanding Work in Radio, she spent over ...

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