January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Thyroid disease is considered more common than diabetes or heart disease and may affect more than 30 million Americans. Women are five times more likely to suffer from under active thyroid (“hypothyroidism”), and more than half of people affected with thyroid disease may not know they are affected.
If your thyroid is not working correctly, it can produce inappropriate levels of thyroid hormone. This hormone can affect all areas of the human body, including tissues and organs. Untreated thyroid disease can result in heart disease, as well as diabetes, arthritis and anemia.
Risk factors for thyroid disease can include family history, certain prescription medications, and history of radiation therapy. Such risk factors warrant a thyroid gland evaluation.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body is exposed to excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. Signs and symptoms may include the following:
· Elevated heart rates, anxiety, irritability and trembling hands
· Loss of scalp hair, intolerance to warm temperatures, and weight loss
· Muscle weakness, changes in menstrual periods and protrusion of the eyes.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is under active, and resulting in less than normal amounts of thyroid hormone being produced. The thyroid gland causes many body functions to “slow down”, resulting in signs and symptoms as follows:
· Fatigue, drowsiness, and forgetfulness
· Dry skin and possible brittle hair
· Difficulty in learning and concentration, weight gain and constipation
Thyroid disease, whether hyperthyroid or hypothyroid, require examination and testing by a medical provider. Laboratory testing confirms the diagnosis and then treatment options can be discussed. For more information on thyroid conditions and treatment options, check with the American Thyroid Association.