How much do you appreciate your thyroid? Do you know what it is or what it does? If not, don’t worry. There is really no better time than the present to begin learning about your thyroid and the important roles it serves in the body; after all, January marks Thyroid Awareness Month.
The thyroid is a gland located at the front of the neck, right underneath the Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help manage our metabolism, brain development and body temperature, along with numerous other crucial bodily functions.
As is the case with most parts of the body, problems with the thyroid can have a serious impact on your health. While symptoms may be muted at first, they can become more pronounced over time. The most common symptoms of thyroid disease– feeling more tired than normal, memory lapses, fluctuations in weight, and irritability – can be mistakenly attributed to some other health disorder. As a result, thyroid disorders can often be misdiagnosed.
More often than not, thyroid problems do not fully inhibit function, but rather cause the gland to become either overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). Either scenario can have a negative impact on one’s health and well-being.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid produces too many hormones, include:
- Increased heart rate
- Feeling anxious or irritable
- Unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble sleeping
Symptoms of hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid produces too few hormones include:
- Feeling fatigued
- Impaired memory
- Sore muscles
- Unexplained weight gain
It is estimated that thyroid disease affects millions of Americans. Certain people are at a greater risk of developing thyroid problems. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, according to the American Thyroid Association. Older people are also more likely to suffer from thyroid problems.
Detecting a thyroid problem early can make a huge difference, allowing one to get a handle on their symptoms before they get worse. That is why it is important to see your doctor if your body you are experiencing the symptoms listed above. By remaining aware of the risks and symptoms, you can preempt thyroid disease before it becomes serious.