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What You Should Know About Your Thyroid

What You Should Know About Your Thyroid

Ask anyone what their heart, lungs or stomach are – and where they’re located in the body – and you get an immediate answer. If you ask what - and where - the thyroid is, things get less clear.

This is a shame since the thyroid is one of the most important glands in the body.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid gland lives near the front surface of the lower neck, just below the Adam’s apple. It’s shaped like an H, with two separate lobes that are each about 5 cm long and 3 cm wide. Thyroid hormone is used by every single one of your cells, so when thyroid function is compromised, so is your health.

Simply put, the thyroid is either directly or indirectly involved in just about every single function of the body. Also important to know is that according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, thyroid disease is more common in the U.S. than both heart disease and diabetes.

If you’re honest about how you’re feeling and any unusual symptoms you’re experiencing, odds are your doctor will catch any signs of thyroid disease via blood tests and other diagnostic tools. Never hide anything from your doctor.

Most common thyroid diseases

When the thyroid malfunctions, it’s typically the result of one of these three diseases:

Hyperthyroidism

If the thyroid becomes overactive, it goes into overdrive and continues producing thyroid hormone – even when the body has had enough. This speeds up all of the body’s general functions, including metabolism. So, it’s no wonder that the symptoms of hyperthyroidism include a feeling like you’re always going 100 mph, as well as:

  • Shakiness (visible or the feeling of being shaky)
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Weight loss and increased appetite
  • Multiple bowel movements per day
  • Feeling warm/hot and excessive sweating
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Bulging and/or red eyes (occurs with Grave’s Disease, a particular form of hyperthyroidism)

Hypothyroidism

On the opposite end of the spectrum is hypothyroidism, where the thyroid is sluggish and doesn’t produce the level of thyroid hormone your body needs. Women are more likely to develop hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders, particularly postpartum.

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:

  • Feeling like you’re moving underwater or more slowly than the rest of the world
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain without increased appetite
  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Depression
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Lethargy or mental slowness

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Also called Hashimoto’s syndrome, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The inflamed thyroid becomes underactive, and so many of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s are the same as those for hypothyroidism, with the addition of:

  • Joint and/or muscle pain
  • Muscle aches, weakness or stiffness
  • Puffy face
  • Enlargement of the tongue
  • Dry, rough skin

Thyroid Cancer

Instances of thyroid cancer have increased exponentially since 1975. However, the increased diagnoses are more related to improved diagnostic imaging and overall awareness than anything else. The good news is that death rates related to thyroid cancer are fairly low compared with other forms of cancer, and most incidences of thyroid cancer are treatable.

The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a visible lump in the neck, the result of the cancerous growth.

The main risks for developing thyroid disease, including cancer, are a family history of thyroid cancer, taking certain prescription medicines (Lithium or Amiodarone), or radiation exposure. 

Read, 7 Simple Lifestyle Changes That May Prevent Cancer, all of which help to improve thyroid function as well.

Experiencing symptoms related to thyroid disease? Contact us here at Palouse Specialty Physicians, and we’ll see if we can save you a trip to the city.

image: LUM3N/pixabay.com

Published on September 26, 2018

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