Thyroid 101

A few things to know about your thyroid

sleepingContributed by Nadia Yaqub, MD, FACP, FACE, ECNU

The thyroid is a mysterious little gland. It could be the reason why you suddenly feel so sluggish or nervous. It could explain why you’ve lost or gained weight. And it can make you feel cold or hot all the time. Understanding a little more about your thyroid may help you decide whether you need to visit your physician or an endocrinologist.

Located just under the Adam’s apple in front of the neck, the thyroid gland takes iodine from the diet and makes thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone is important because this natural hormone affects a person’s metabolism, physical energy, temperature, weight, and mood. An imbalance of this hormone can be expressed in subtle ways that are easy to overlook. Two of the most common thyroid abnormalities are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. And, as you can see below, it can be easy to miss a thyroid issue because the symptoms may just feel like the result of stress or a busy life.

Symptoms of Abnormal Thyroid Function

Too Little Thyroid Hormone—Hypothyroidism

  • Depression or feeling blue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Tiredness
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling cold all the time

Too Much Thyroid Hormone—Hyperthyroidism

  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Tremor (shaking)
  • Fast, irregular pulse
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling hot all the time

Thyroid imbalances can happen to anyone but women are six to eight times as likely as men to develop a thyroid condition. A woman is more at risk of developing a thyroid condition if she is over the age of 50, has a family history of the disease, is pregnant or postpartum, has too little or too much iodine in her diet, experiences major stress, or is a cigarette smoker. You may not hear a lot about this gland, but it is an important one because it affects so much of your daily quality of life.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, ask your doctor if you need a thyroid blood test. Prevention and early treatment can keep you strong, healthy and energized.

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