Everything You Should Know About Your Thyroid

With up to 20 million Americans experiencing some sort of thyroid condition (and up to 60 percent of whom don’t know it – according to the American Thyroid Association), we are sharing general details to help you learn more about this important part of our physical and medical health.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. Its job is to produce thyroid hormones, which help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.

Now, the thyroid can become either overactive or underactive. There are many thyroid disorders but the most common are hyperthyroidism (excessive levels of thyroid hormone), and hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone deficiency). A simple blood test can determine whether your thyroid is under or overactive.

For example, hyperthyroidism speeds up bodily functions, resulting in symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, anxiety, weight loss and difficulty sleeping. At the onset of the disease, individuals with hyperthyroidism may have a lot of energy. After the disease progresses, the body wears down and chronic fatigue is common. On the other hand, when there is not enough thyroid hormone in the blood, the body’s metabolism slows down. Individuals with hypothyroidism may experience fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, dry skin and hair, muscle aches, constipation and depression.

While the causes of these thyroid problems are largely unknown, we do know the problems that come with undiagnosed or untreated thyroid disease.

Undiagnosed thyroid disease can put patients at risk for serious conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility. We also know that women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. In pregnant women, hypothyroidism can present an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and potential developmental problems in their children.

Perhaps the reason so many cases of thyroid conditions go undiagnosed is because they are associated with symptoms that could be mistakenly attributed to living in a big city or wintertime weather – which means now is the perfect time to learn about your thyroid and how to keep it healthy.

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or are concerned that you may have a thyroid condition.