January is Thyroid Awareness Month, a good time to learn about thyroid health and thyroid conditions. As such, we’d like to familiarize you with your thyroid a little better.
Meet your thyroid. Your thyroid:
- Is a gland that is found in both men and women. It is located at the front of your neck, below your Adam’s apple, along the front of your windpipe.
- Looks like a butterfly, with two side lobes connected by an isthmus.
- Secretes hormones to regulate many body functions related to the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin.
- Influences growth and development, as well as your metabolism.
- Can’t be felt when at its normal size. However, it might enlarge and become visible if you have a goiter or hyperthyroidism.
- Requires sufficient iodine to function. This is not typically a problem for people in the United States who often get iodine through fish and dairy products, as well as iodized salt.
- May become overactive and produce too much thyroid hormone. This is known as hyperthyroidism. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease, but other conditions may also cause it. Symptoms may include fatigue or muscle weakness, mood swings, trouble sleeping, dry skin, hand tremors and anxiety, to name only a few.
- May become underactive and insufficiently produce thyroid hormone, thereby slowing down body functions. This is known as hypothyroidism. Causes may include a lack of iodine, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and certain medications. Symptoms may include a slowed metabolism, being overweight, loss of energy and power, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, and tiredness, to name only a few.
- Can be checked with a self-exam. This simple check involves a mirror and a glass of water. Learn how to do a thyroid neck check at http://www.thyroidawareness.com/neck-check.
- May be prone to dysfunction due to genetic factors, prescription medications such as Lithium and Amiodarone, and radiation therapy. You may want to consider a thyroid evaluation from a doctor if any of these factors apply to you.
Why do you need to know your thyroid? Remember all of those organs your thyroid impacts and all of the symptoms associated with thyroid conditions? A healthy thyroid is important to your well-being, and an unhealthy thyroid can wreak havoc on it.
Thyroid disease is more common than diabetes and heart disease. As many as 30 million Americans live with thyroid disease—of them, an estimated 15 million have undiagnosed thyroid problems.
When diagnosed and treated early, thyroid conditions are largely treatable. Be sure to discuss thyroid concerns and other changes in your health with your doctor. Check out the AACE’s “Ten Questions to Ask About Your Thyroid Health” for questions you may want to ask your physician and pharmacist.
AACE Thyroid Awareness. “About Your Thyroid.” http://www.thyroidawareness.com/about-your-thyroid
Aleppo, Grazia, MD, FACE, FACP. “Hyperthyroidism Overview.” EndocrineWeb. Last updated Feb. 2, 2015. http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hyperthyroidism/hyperthyroidism-overview-overactive-thyroid
MayoClinic.org. “Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/basics/causes/con-20020986
U.S. National Library of Medicine “How Does the Thyroid Work.” Last updated Jan. 7, 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/
WebMD. “Women’s Health: Picture of the Thyroid.” http://www.webmd.com/women/picture-of-the-thyroid