Understanding Thyroid Disease

Understanding Thyroid Disease

Are you sick and tired? Your Thyroid could be to blame… and you are not alone. Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from Thyroid disease. The disease is more prevalent in women than men. In fact, 1 in every 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder in their life. So why is it that out of 20 million people impacted, nearly 60% do not know they are living with thyroid disease and suspect other causes for their illnesses? Read more about Thyroid Disease and know when to seek care.

How Does the Thyroid Work?

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland settled in the base of the neck. Although small, the thyroid gland plays a very important role in our body functions. It influences many of the body’s most important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. It is vitally important to the body’s overall well-being to ensure that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly.

Our thyroid gland is in charge of creating enough thyroid hormone to prompt your cells to perform a function at a certain rate. In addition, your thyroid needs fuel to produce thyroid hormone. This fuel is iodine. Iodine comes from food you eat and is found in table salt, seafood, bread and milk. Your thyroid extracts these necessary ingredients from your bloodstream and uses it to make two kinds of thyroid hormone: thyroxine, and triiodothyronine.

The thyroid also needs some direction, provided by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of your brain. The pituitary gland is no larger than a pea. It is sometimes known as the “master gland” because it controls the functions of the thyroid and the other glands that make up the endocrine system. Your pituitary gland sends messages to your thyroid gland, telling it how much thyroid hormone to make.

Hypo- and Hyper- Thyroidism 

When outside influences such as disease damage the thyroid or certain medicines break down communication, your thyroid might not produce enough hormone. This would slow down all of your body’s functions, a condition known as hypothyroidism. This happens when the thyroid can’t meet your body’s demands for thyroid hormone to function properly. As you slow down, you may feel cold, tired and even depressed. You may gain weight, even though you’re eating less.

Your thyroid could also produce too much hormone making your systems work exponentially more, a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Sometimes your thyroid keeps churning out more thyroid hormone, even when your pituitary gland completely shuts down.This is a clear sign that your body has had enough. Yet the thyroid appears oblivious to the lack of signals and continues to produce too much, pushing your metabolism into overdrive and speeding up your body’s processes. Your pulse may be racing, you feel irritable and overheated, and you have trouble sleeping. You may lose weight without trying. As with hypothyroidism, you may develop a goiter; in this case, your thyroid enlarges because your thyroid is working so hard overproducing thyroid hormone.

When to Consider a Thyroid Disease Evaluation

Think you may have something wrong with your thyroid? These indicators could help you decide when to seek care

Family history: A familiar place to look for thyroid disorder signs and symptoms is your family tree. If you have a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling or child) with thyroid disease, you would benefit from thyroid evaluation. Women are much more likely to be thyroid patients than men; however, the gene pool runs through both.

Prescription medications: If you are taking Lithium or Amiodarone, you should consider a thyroid evaluation.

Radiation therapy to the head or neck: If you have had any of the following radiation therapies, you should consider a thyroid evaluation: radiation therapy for tonsils, radiation therapy for an enlarged thymus, or radiation therapy for acne.

If you have questions about your thyroid or wish to seek care for Thyroid Disease, visit your Primary Care physician or a Women’s Health Specialist here at CCMH. Your care and questions are our utmost priority!


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