Thyroid awareness: A brief look at the thyroid gland
Thyroid awareness is an important topic, as the thyroid gland plays a crucial role in many of the body’s functions. Unfortunately, thyroid disorders are common, with as many as 20 million Americans suffering from some form of thyroid disease.
It’s important to be aware of thyroid health problems and to seek medical attention if you suspect that you may have a thyroid disorder.
What is the function of the thyroid gland?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. It produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, which is the process by which the body converts food into energy.
The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones help to regulate the body’s metabolism, heart rate, body temperature, and energy levels.
There are several different types of thyroid diseases, including:
- Hypothyroidism – Also called underactive thyroid, this occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, and constipation
- Hyperthyroidism – Also known as overactive thyroid, this occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much hormone. This can cause symptoms such as weight loss, rapid heartbeat, and anxiety.
- Thyroid cancer – This is a rare form of cancer and occurs in about 5% of a person’s thyroid nodules.
Thyroid disorder risk factors
Like most health conditions, the risk of thyroid disorders increases with age. But there are other several risk factors to consider, such as:
- a family history of thyroid problems
- a history of radiation exposure to the neck or head
- certain medical conditions such as diabetes or pernicious anemia
- women are more likely to develop thyroid problems than men
Hypothyroidism vs. hyperthyroidism symptoms
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism have different signs and symptoms. It’s important to take note of anything you’re experiencing to help doctors properly diagnose your condition.
Signs of hyperthyroidism include:
- Excessive sweating
- Fine or brittle hair
- Frequent bowel movements
- Hand tremors
- Light or less frequent menstrual cycles
- Muscle weakness
- Racing heart
- Sleep problems
- Thinning skin
- Unexplained weight loss
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Dry skin
- Feeling cold
Diagnosing a thyroid problem
There are several ways to diagnose thyroid disorders. The most common method is through a blood test, which measures thyroid-stimulating hormone and thyroid hormone levels in the bloodstream.
Other diagnostic tests for thyroid disorders may include imaging tests, such as ultrasound or CT scans, and biopsy. A biopsy involves removing a small sample of thyroid tissue and examining it under a microscope.
Treatment for thyroid disorders
Treatment depends on the type and severity of the disorder.
For hypothyroidism, treatment usually involves taking a daily dose of thyroid hormone in the form of a pill.
For hyperthyroidism, treatment may include:
- medication to slow down the production of thyroid hormone
- the use of radioactive iodine to destroy overactive thyroid tissue
- surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland
Thyroid cancer is usually treated with surgery to remove the cancerous tissue. Then it is followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Risk reduction and prevention
There are several ways to reduce your risk of developing a thyroid disorder.
- getting enough iodine in your diet
- avoiding exposure to radiation
- managing medical conditions, such as diabetes or pernicious anemia
It’s also important to get regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. Early detection and treatment of thyroid disorders can lead to better outcomes.
Thyroid awareness month
January is Thyroid Awareness Month. It’s an annual event in the United States that aims to raise awareness about the importance of thyroid health. The hope of the American Thyroid Association is to help improve the lives of those with thyroid conditions and to prevent others from developing them.
The ATA also raises funds for thyroid research. Research programs focus on finding methods of prevention, treatments, and cures for most if not all thyroid diseases and cancers.
Get your thyroid checked!
In conclusion, thyroid awareness is important for maintaining good overall health. If you have any symptoms that may be related to a thyroid disorder, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most thyroid conditions can be effectively managed.