The hormones produced by your thyroid gland influence almost all of the metabolic processes in your body. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped, endocrine gland that sits low on the front of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid secretes several hormones, collectively called thyroid hormones. These hormones influence and regulate metabolism, growth and development and body temperature. Thyroid disorders are caused by either too many or too few thyroid hormones.
How do thyroid problems affect you?
Women are more likely than men to have thyroid disease. One in eight women will develop thyroid issues during her lifetime and they can cause:
What is the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones. It is also called underactive thyroid. This slows down many of your body's functions, like your metabolism.
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, causes your thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones than your body needs. This speeds up many of your body's functions, including your metabolism and heart rate. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease, which is a problem with the immune system.
What are the causes of hypothyroidism?
- Hashimoto's disease
- Hyperthyroidism treatment (radioiodine)
- Radiation treatment of certain cancers
- Thyroid removal
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
- Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
- Coarse, dry hair
- Dry, rough pale skin
- Hair loss
- Cold intolerance
- Muscle cramps and aches
- Memory problems
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Reduced libido
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Mood changes
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Increased heartbeat
- Heart palpatations or irregular heartbeat
- Dry skin
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weight loss
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Light periods or missed periods
What should you do if you suspect thyroid problems?
If you suspect you have thyroid problems, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, especially if you are having any of the above symptoms. You and your provider can discuss and evaluate your symptoms, along with reviewing the need for thyroid blood tests and additional medical evaluations as appropriate.
What are your treatment options?
Thyroid problems can be treated in a variety of ways to produce normal thyroid function. Treatments for thyroid disorders are dependent on what type of thyroid condition you have. Treatment options include: surgery, radioactive iodine treatment and medication to maintain the normal thyroid state.
Although the effects can be unpleasant or uncomfortable, most thyroid problems can be managed well if properly diagnosed and treated.