For those who may not know, January is Thyroid Awareness Month. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ situated at the base of the neck. It releases hormones that control your metabolism and is vital to other body functions such as breathing, heart rate, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, cholesterol levels, and body temperature.
The thyroid is a part of the endocrine system, which is made up of glands that produce, store, and release hormones into the bloodstream. It mainly produces two hormones: triiodothyronine and thyroxine. These two hormones regulate your metabolism and heart rate as it is distributed throughout the body and should neither be too high or too low. Too much can cause anxiety, sweating, and hair loss. Too little can cause fatigue, dry skin, and trouble sleeping.
Thyroid disorders are common among women, but anyone can develop it. If women have a thyroid disorder, it makes it harder for them to conceive, and pregnancy is hard on both the mother and baby. It can also cause the menstrual cycle to stop for several months.
According to the British Thyroid Foundation, about one in 20 people have some type of thyroid disorder. There are many reasons why someone could develop a disorder, but it mainly occurs because of an autoimmune thyroid disease. It is a self-destructive process where the immune system attacks the thyroid cells as if they were foreign, which is why you might have underactive or overactive glands.
Always consult your doctor if you feel any problems with your body. To diagnose a thyroid disorder, your doctor will listen to your symptoms and examine your neck. He or she will also take a small blood sample to test your thyroid secretory state. They will determine if you are overproducing or under producing.
Most disorders can be treated with daily medication. Other disorders include thyroid eye disease, swellings, and even thyroid cancer. Symptoms of cancer include swelling or a lump in the thyroid, hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, and changes in a previously known lump. Treatment involves removing part of the gland or radiation. Thyroid problems often run in families, so it is encouraged to talk with your family and doctor to keep yourself healthy.
If any of these symptoms mentioned above speak to you, please consult your doctor. While these are highly treatable, it is important to get an early diagnosis to prevent any other complications.
Written by: Julie Jernigan