About 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid disease, and approximately 13 million more are currently undiagnosed. So what is your thyroid and what does it do?
ABOUT YOUR THYROID
Think of your thyroid as a butterfly-shaped engine that sets the pace at which your entire body operates. Just as an engine produces the required amount of energy for a car to move at an ideal speed, your gland manufactures enough hormones to prompt your cells, tissues and organs to perform a function at a certain rate. These hormones work to regulate many different bodily processes, such as body weight, temperature, emotions, stress levels and sleep.
Thyroid dysfunction can affect anyone, but women are five times more likely than men to suffer, and a person’s risk increases with age. If left untreated it can cause conditions, such as depression, tremors, muscle weakness and constant fatigue. Though there are no quick tips to preventing problems, knowing what to look for and receiving early treatment upon noticing symptoms can be especially beneficial.
TWO TYPES OF THYROID DISEASE
This disease refers to an overactive gland, which produces too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms include the following:
- Enlarged thyroid
- Rapid heart rate
- Nervous, anxious or irritable behavior
- Trembling hands
- Unexplained weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Increased sweating
- Hair loss
- Fertility issues
Hypothyroidism occurs when the gland produces less than the normal amount of thyroid hormone, resulting in the decrease of many bodily functions. When the metabolism slows due to hypothyroidism, the following may occur:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased cholesterol
- Intolerance to cold
Risk factors for disease include:
- Being female: Women are five to eight times more likely to suffer from a thyroid disorder than men are.
- Age: The Thyroid Foundation of America recommends that women get annual hormone level tests yearly starting at age 50; men should as well beginning at age 60.
- Family history: If the disease runs in the family, testing every five years after age 35 is recommended.
- Pregnancy: Conditions can arise after giving birth.
The good news is, once a condition is identified, it can be successfully treated. Speak to your doctor if you think you are experiencing symptoms of thyroid disease. As with any condition, early detection and treatment can greatly reduce the need for more drastic intervention such as surgery. Treatment for hyperthyroidism usually includes prescription drugs, radioactive iodine therapy and/or surgery. Hypothyroidism tends to be treated most effectively with a prescription hormone replacement.
If you need assistance finding a doctor or facility to use with your TSBHP plan, contact our Care Coordinators online or at 888.803.0081.