Are you feeling tired or tense? Have you been losing or gaining weight? Maybe it’s stress—or maybe you have thyroid disease.
The thyroid gland, located in the lower part of the neck, is one of the endocrine glands. The thyroid produces hormones that are needed for normal body metabolism. It plays an important role in your health and affects every organ, tissue, and cell in your body. When the thyroid is not working properly, it can affect a person’s weight, energy level, muscle strength, skin, menstrual cycle, memory, and heart rate.
Although thyroid disease is fairly common, the range of symptoms associated with it can be mistaken for other health problems. Feeling tired and chilly can mean your thyroid is underactive, but these could also be due to other causes. Feeling tense and overworked could mean you have an overactive thyroid, or just plain stress. Thyroid disease may be overlooked in a pre-menopausal woman who may have similar symptoms. That’s why your doctor needs to do the proper tests.
The most common thyroid diseases are an overactive gland (hyperthyroidism or Grave’s disease) or underactive gland (hypothyroidism). Hyerthyroidism affects roughly 5 to 8 percent of the population, while hypothyroidism is even more common.
Most people with thyroid disease have some, but not all of these symptoms.
Thyroid disease is diagnosed by your symptoms, an exam, medical history, and tests. Tests may include a blood test, an ultrasound exam (during pregnancy), a thyroid scan, a biopsy (for a lump), and other tests.
Blood testing can determine the adequacy of the levels of thyroid hormones to determine if the thyroid gland’s hormone production is normal, overactive, or underactive. It’s recommended that all adults, beginning at age 35, have a baseline thyroid blood screening with follow-up testing every five years.
Women have a much higher risk for thyroid disease than men. A woman faces as high as a one in five chance of developing thyroid problems during her lifetime, a risk that increases with age and for those with a family history of thyroid problems.
Your risks of having thyroid disease are higher if:
If a person has been diagnosed with Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism), smoking will make the symptoms worse.
Thyroid disease can be treated with medication alone or with surgery, radioactive iodine, or a combination of these treatments.
If you think you may have a thyroid problem, see your physician. If you have ever had a thyroid disorder, it is important to have your thyroid levels checked on a regular basis.