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January is National Thyroid Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to increase our knowledge on this very important butterfly-shaped gland. This small gland is found just below the Adam’s apple in the base of the neck. Even though this is a relatively small gland, it has an enormous amount of responsibilities within our bodies. It directly impacts the function of many of our vital organs including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and skin. Making sure your thyroid gland is working properly is extremely important to your body’s overall health and well-being.

The main function of the thyroid gland is to secrete hormones. The main hormones released by the thyroid are triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4). These hormones deliver energy to cells in the body. The thyroid gland gets its main direction from the pituitary gland, which sends messages to the thyroid gland, telling it how much thyroid hormone to make. Outside influences such as certain medications, disease, or damage to the thyroid can breakdown the communication between the pituitary and thyroid gland. When this happens, your thyroid gets confused and can either make too much or not enough hormones.

This leads to the 2 most common thyroid disorders:

1. Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is one of the most misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and prevalent medical conditions in the United States. Studies indicate that as many as 3 million Americans suffer from this condition. The symptoms associated with this condition are often blamed on aging and the common stressors of everyday life. Women are five times more likely to suffer from this condition than men.

Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid does not make a sufficient amount of hormone. The most common reason for hypothyroidism is known as Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is condition where your immune system attacks your thyroid gland and eventually it ‘poops’ out. It is a progressive disease, which can affect other hormone-producing glands, if not treated. Hypothyroidism ‘slows down’ your body’s metabolism and makes your immune system less effective.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:

• Slowed metabolism
• Fatigue
• Weight gain
• Depression
• Joint/muscle pain
• Sensitivity to cold
• Dry and brittle hair, nails, and skin
• Brain fog
• Constipation
• Menstrual cycle changes

2. Hyperthyroidism: With hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland is producing too much hormone sending your body systems into overdrive. Although not as common as hypothyroidism, there are still over 200,000 U.S. cases per year. It is also more prevalent among women than it is with men.

Some common symptoms include:

• Racing heart
• Irritability
• Trouble sleeping
• Unexplained weight loss
• Nervousness
• Anxiety
• Sensitivity to heat
• Swelling at the base of the neck

If thyroid conditions are left untreated, they can lead to elevated cholesterol, heart issues, osteoporosis, and infertility. Research is also showing a strong link between thyroid disease and other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, anemia, and arthritis. Symptoms of thyroid disease can vary from one person to the next, and not every symptom means you have a thyroid disorder. If you have been experiencing and are concerned about any of these mentioned symptoms, please consult your physician. They can order and perform appropriated testing to check your thyroid.

We at Blue Sky MD are here to provide you with a complete evaluation of thyroid function. We will provide a physical examination, take a complete history of symptoms, conduct lab testing, and provide safe and effective treatment. Contact any of our Blue Sky MD offices today to schedule a visit.

 

Is a Thyroid Problem an Emergency?

Consult a doctor immediately if you suspect you're having thyroid problems. Untreated thyroid problems can lead to severe health issues, from cardiovascular complications, kidney damage, and nerve damage to infertility and complications with pregnancy.

What are the signs of thyroid problems?

You should be on the lookout for sudden changes in sleep patterns, weight gain or weight loss, muscle weakness, or irregular menstrual cycles. These symptoms may indicate a thyroid problem.

How can I check my thyroid at home?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located between the collar bone and the Adam's apple area in the neck. You can check your thyroid by standing in front of a mirror and drinking a glass of water. Tilt the head back and watch for any protrusions or abnormalities in your lower neck as you swallow.

How often should I get Thyroid Function Screening done?

Adults aged 35 and older should test their thyroid function every five years at minimum. Since thyroid problems are more common in women, screening should take place more frequently and starting as early as age 20.

How do you test for thyroid problems?

Thyroid screening is done through blood samples. The screening usually tests levels of T4 (thyroxine), T3 (triiodothyronine), and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to determine healthy thyroid function.