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5 Signs You May Have Thyroid Issues

Jennifer Wegerer
By Jennifer WegererJanuary 15, 2014

Your thyroid influences almost all of your body’s metabolic processes. Some thyroid issues can lead to problems that require little to no treatment, while others can be life threatening.

5 Signs You May Have Thyroid Issues

It’s important to learn and recognize the signs of thyroid problems, and through early diagnosis and treatment, you can. Learn more.

Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid disorders can strike anyone for any reason, regardless of age or ethnic background.

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According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), nearly 30 million Americans have thyroid disease. It’s more common than diabetes or heart disease, and it strikes women five times more often than men.

A butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck, the thyroid uses iodine to produce vital hormones that control how the body’s cells use energy. It’s controlled by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, so problems with these tissues can also cause thyroid problems.

Specific thyroid disorders include:

  1. Hypothyroidism: A common condition that occurs when the thyroid gland produces an insufficient thyroid hormone. Because the thyroid hormone affects many cellular processes, including growth and development, low levels of this hormone can affect many areas of the body.
  2. Hyperthyroidism: Less common than hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism results from an overactive thyroid. When the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, it speeds up the body’s processes and drives your metabolism too hard
  3. Goiter: Referring generally to an enlarged thyroid gland, goiter can happen due to hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or simply as a part of normal thyroid function.
  4. Thyroid nodules: Benign cysts, benign tumors or, in some cases, thyroid cancers can produce thyroid nodules. These lumps can vary in size and can compress nearby tissues and structures in the neck.
  5. Thyroid cancer: Three times more common in women than men, thyroid cancer often has a good prognosis and high survival rates. But early diagnosis is key.

Signs of Thyroid Issues

The AACE has created a public service announcement and provides different resources about thyroid health and how to check your neck for thyroid problems.

As part of this January’s Thyroid Awareness Month, take some time to understand the symptoms of thyroid disorders. Thyroid disease can be confused with many other conditions, so knowing the signs can help you catch this disease early.

Five common signs of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid):

  • Fatigue and sluggishness
  • Depressed mood
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • High cholesterol levels that don’t respond to dietary changes, exercise or medication
  • Menstrual changes (prolonged menstrual bleeding)

Five common signs ofhyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid):

  • Nervousness, agitation or panic attacks
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Heat intolerance
  • Severe hair loss
  • Menstrual changes (reduced menstrual flow)

Thyroid nodules, goiter and thyroid cancer can all cause swelling in the neck, trouble swallowing and trouble breathing. Often, though, symptoms aren’t present, and the condition goes unnoticed unless a doctor detects a lump in the throat during a routine exam. Additional testing may be necessary to determine thyroid hormone levels and rule out serious illness or the need for surgery.

Have Your Thyroid Checked

The American Thyroid Association recommends having your thyroid checked if you’re over 35 years old, with a follow-up test every five years after that. Your risks for thyroid problems go up if you are a woman over age 60, have a family history of thyroid or autoimmune disease, or if you have received radiation to the neck or upper chest.

Have you had your thyroid checked lately or encouraged a senior to undergo screening? Share your story in the comments below.

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