Thyroid disease is one of the most common endocrine disorders in the United States, striking mostly females. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), 27 million Americans have some type of thyroid disorder, although it’s estimated that half of those cases are undiagnosed.
Located near the front of the neck, the thyroid is a small gland that produces a hormone that helps control blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and weight. The thyroid is regulated by the pituitary gland and influences several of the body’s most important organs including the heart, brain, liver and kidneys. When a person suffers from thyroid disease, their body uses energy more slowly or quickly than it should.
Types of Thyroid Diseases
1. Hypothyroidism is the most frequently diagnosed thyroid condition and affects women more than men. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Treatment involves taking a daily dose of synthetic thyroxine, which is identical to the hormone produced by the thyroid. Dosage is dependent on the patient’s age, weight and severity of the disease and is monitored carefully so that only the exact amount needed is given.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Dry thinning hair
2. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces more hormones than the body needs. Treatment depends on the severity and can include medication to regulate the amount of thyroid hormone produced, radioiodine therapy and surgery.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
3. Thyroid cancer is rare, and more likely to occur in those exposed to large doses of radiation or who have a family history of an enlarged thyroid, known as goiter. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the cancer and most often includes surgery, chemotherapy, and lifelong supplemental thyroid replacement taken as a pill.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
A mass in the front of the neck
A lump in the throat
Swollen lymph nodes
Neck or throat pain
Family History and Other Risk Factors
Thyroid disease is more likely to strike those with existing endocrine diseases like diabetes, those who have a family history of thyroid disease, females, people over the age of 60, and women who are pregnant or have recently given birth.
Diagnosing Thyroid Disease
In the early stages, symptoms of thyroid disease can develop slowly, and many people are not diagnosed until the disease has progressed. Thyroid disease can be diagnosed through a physical exam and a series of blood tests to check thyroid hormone levels. When thyroid hormone levels are too high or too low, multiple body functions can be negatively affected and in some cases cause coma or death. Ensuring that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly is crucial to the body’s overall health.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of thyroid disease, contact your physician or an endocrinologist to determine if you are suffering from a thyroid condition. To search symptoms, learn about diseases, or to locate a physician near you,