For most people, learning that they have a thyroid imbalance is shocking. Most people don’t immediately connect a thyroid condition with weight gain, for example. It’s easy to blame brain fog and sleepiness on your work commute. Stress becomes the likely culprit for a sudden hair loss, sweating, or experiencing anxiety. But at the end of the day, all of these symptoms could be signs of a thyroid problem.
What Exactly is the Thyroid?
Situated at the front of the neck, the thyroid is a gland shaped like a butterfly. It is the powerful control center for many important body functions. This gland manufactures hormones that regulate heart rate, digestion, body temperature, and even breathing. It also controls the amount of calories you burn.
Problems occur with an overabundance or a shortage of thyroid hormones. Issues are more likely to develop in women, and in fact, one in eight women live with a thyroid condition. Individuals older than 60 face increased risk.
How are Thyroid Problems Diagnosed?
A physician diagnoses a thyroid disorder after performing a physical exam and reviewing laboratory results. A simple blood test measures the patient’s amount of thyroid stimulating hormone. This hormone is the workhorse that regulates the work of the thyroid.
Occasionally, checking the levels of other thyroid hormones, performing imaging studies, and taking biopsies are used for diagnosis.
Six Types of Thyroid Conditions
These are the six types of thyroid disorders patients experience:
- Hyperthyroidism: Overabundant supply of thyroid hormones
- Hypothyroidism: Insufficient production of thyroid hormones
- Thyroiditis: Inflammation of the gland
- Goiter: Thyroid enlargement
- Thyroid nodules: Lumps in the gland itself
- Thyroid cancer: Uncommon and among the least-deadly types of malignancy
Of these thyroid diseases, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are the most common.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
One in every 100 Americans suffers from hyperthyroidism, caused by an overactive thyroid gland that releases a surplus of hormones. Possible causes include Graves’ disease, Plummer’s disease, thyroid nodules, toxic adenoma, and an inflamed thyroid.
Common symptoms include:
- A sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Irritability, anxiety or nervousness
- Increased sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Tremors in the fingers and hands
- Thinning skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Growing heat sensitivity
- Fine or brittle hair
If a patient is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, there are several treatment options available. They include orally administered radioactive iodine, anti-thyroid medications, beta blockers, and surgery to remove part of the thyroid gland. Self-help measures include dietary adjustments and getting enough vitamin D and calcium.
What is Hypothyroidism?
This disorder strikes one in every 20 individuals who over are 12 years old. Body functions slow because the thyroid cannot produce a sufficient supply of hormones.
The cause is often an autoimmune disease. Sometimes treatment for hyperthyroidism reduces thyroid function to the extent that hypothyroidism develops. Certain medications (such as lithium) can be a cause. The condition less often results from congenital disease, pregnancy, iodine deficiency, or a pituitary disorder.
Many patients suffer from:
- Hypersensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Memory issues
- Muscle weakness
- Joint problems
To restore a patient’s normal hormone levels, doctors prescribe a daily dose of a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine. Reviewing blood work makes sure the dosage is not excessive, which can cause shakiness, insomnia, an increased appetite, and heart palpitations.
Symptoms of a thyroid imbalance often mimic ailments that people wouldn’t consider going to the doctor for. However, if two or more of the symptoms above affect your quality of life, consider having your thyroid tested at Ogden Clinic. You can request an appointment online with a provider or give us a call at (801) 475-3000.