Do you know that women constitute 80% of all thyroid cases?
Do you even know what a thyroid is?
Well if your answers are no to these questions, then you are just like me ten years ago when I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. I was a teenager, and I had never heard of the condition before, but when I told my doctor all the symptoms I had been experiencing (Fatigue, memory issues, thinning hair), he suggested that I take a blood test to determine my thyroid levels. When the results came back, I shocked at the diagnosis.
I didn’t even know where my thyroid was!
I was lucky because my doctor was very experienced, but many other women suffer from thyroid conditions which go undiagnosed because the symptoms usually mimic other illnesses.
So, I decided to look for a simple article that explained thyroid conditions in the most basic way.
I hope you find it helpful.
Your thyroid gland, located just below your neck in front of your larynx, secretes hormones through your bloodstream to every cell and every organ in your body. This tiny, 2-inch gland regulates your body temperature, keeps your brain thinking clearly, your heart pumping rhythmically, and basically maintains harmony among all organs in your body.
When you have thyroid disease, your thyroid gland can either become overactive or underactive.
If your thyroid doesn’t secrete enough hormones into your blood, you may suffer from hypothyroidism and a slowing down of bodily functions. This could cause more serious complications, like high cholesterol and heart trouble.
Initial symptoms of hypothyroidism might include:
- Weight gain
- Cold intolerance
- Dry or brittle hair
- Memory problems
- Irritability and depression
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Slower heart rate
- Constipation, or sluggish bowel
On the flip side, if your thyroid secretes too many hormones, bodily functions will speed up, as it does in hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroid symptoms could include:
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance
- Frequent bowel movements
- Nervousness and irritability
- Thyroid gland enlargement
- Sleep disturbances
If left untreated, Hyprothyroidism could lead to Heart Problems, Infertility, Goiter (Bulge in the neck) , Mental Health Issues and Myxedema (extreme cases of Hypothyrodism which slow metabolism to the point where you would fall into a coma).
If left untreated, Hyperthyroidism could lead to Arrhythmia (abnormal heart beat, such as atrial fibrillation), Cardiac dilation (increase in the size of the heart cavities, which actually thins the heart muscle), oesteporosis, sudden cardiac arrest and hypertension.
A simple blood test can easily determine how much thyroid hormone you have in your blood, but the best diagnosis is one that takes into account not only the patient’s blood test results, but a full personal history of symptoms and risk factors for hypo or hyperthyroidism.
Risk factors for thyroid disease include:
- Diabetes or another autoimmune disorder
- A history of radiation treatment to the thyroid area
- A family history of thyroid disorder
- Hormonal changes, such as those that occur in pregnancy or menopause
- Age: Incidence of hypothyroidism is higher in menopausal women than in very young women.
A clinical exam is important, too, as the physician looks for physical signs of thyroid problems, such as abnormalities in the appearance of the eyelids.
In addition to drawing blood, your doctor may also order an ultrasound exam of your thyroid to look for irregularities.
It is generally only after the doctor has conducted a full exam that a diagnosis can be made and treatment started.
The treatment for hyperthyroidism includes “burning out” the thyroid with a one-time radioactive iodine pill and/or an antithyroid medication.
Radioactive treatment can correct the problem when too much thyroid hormone is being made, but this often results in hypothyroidism afterwards.
This will require the patient to take synthetic thyroid pills to supply needed hormones, which is also the treatment for primary hypothyroidism.
If you think you might have thyroid dysfunction, ask your primary care doctor to evaluate your symptoms and get a blood test. If you are a woman nearing menopause, it is especially important that you seek out an evaluation of your thyroid if you’re experiencing symptoms.
If you’re not satisfied with the care you’re receiving from your primary care doctor and still suspect a thyroid condition might be to blame for your symptoms, see an endocrinologist. This type of specialist is trained to understand the nuances of thyroid dysfunction.