For being so tiny, the thyroid sure has a big job. The butterfly-shaped gland at the bottom of the neck makes the thyroid hormone, which affects nearly every tissue and organ in the body. It controls your heart rate and how fast you burn calories, among many other things.
When there’s too much or too little of the hormone, it can wreak all kinds of havoc. In women, this may cause issues with your menstrual cycle, trouble getting pregnant, and problems during pregnancy such as premature delivery.
Who gets thyroid disease?
More than 12% of Americans will develop a thyroid condition at some point in their lifetime. Women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to have issues with their thyroid; 1 in 8 will experience a thyroid disorder.
Can thyroid disease be treated?
Fortunately, thyroid issues are treatable. The problem is that as many as 60% of people don’t know they have a problem. Most thyroid diseases need to be monitored and managed for life. People usually need to take medicine to keep their hormone levels where they should be, but treatment will be based on the specific condition. While your healthcare provider should do testing and help rule out other conditions, they may refer you to an endocrinologist. This specialist is trained to diagnose and treat thyroid diseases.
How do I know if I have a thyroid problem?
There are some general symptoms that indicate a problem with the thyroid. These include fatigue and changes in memory. Women are also more likely than men to have swelling or a lump in their neck that can be seen or felt when touched. Other symptoms you may experience depend on the specific condition.
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) symptoms may include:
- Weight loss
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trembling fingers or hands
- Feeling anxious or nervous
- Lighter periods
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) symptoms may include:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold when others don’t
- Joint or muscle pain
- Feeling very tired
- Heavier periods
Thyroid cancer does not always cause symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, they may include:
- Swelling in the neck
- Trouble swallowing
- Hoarse voice
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN