Have you been excessively tired lately? Are you a male or female over the age of 30 who has thinning hair, dry skin, and unexplained weight gain? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you may need to have your thyroid checked. Most people see these symptoms as obvious signs of aging, which is why nearly 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and half of those people remain undiagnosed, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland just below the Adam’s apple. Its main purpose is to produce 2 hormones: T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These hormones are secreted by the thyroid to meet the metabolic needs of the body. T3 and T4 hormones control every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. As a part of the endocrine system, the thyroid’s duty is to regulate how much or how little of these hormones go into the bloodstream.
When there is too much T3 and T4 secreted into the bloodstream, the thyroid disorder is called hyperthyroidism. Symptoms include:
• Hair loss
• Bulging eyes
• Rapid heartbeat
• Muscle weakness
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. This is when the body’s immune system overstimulates the thyroid. The thyroid then attacks it back by overproducing T3 and T4. Treatment of hyperthyroidism can be either a pill known as a beta blocker or radioactive iodine treatments which destroy all or part of the thyroid.
When there is too little T3 and T4 secreted into the bloodstream, the thyroid disorder is called hypothyroidism. Symptoms include:
• Puffy face
• Sore muscles
• Weight gain or fluid retention
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease. This is when the body’s immune system destroys the thyroid. This causes the thyroid to slow down and, in some cases, stop any production of T3 and T4. Treatment of hypothyroidism comes in the form of a hormone replacement pill called levothyroxine.
Thyroid disease is not easily diagnosed. Most symptoms go unnoticed or are attributed to getting older. If symptoms go untreated, they become more severe. Constant stimulation of your thyroid gland in either disorder can cause an enlarged thyroid or goiter. You may become more forgetful, have slower thought processes, or feel depressed. Thyroid disease can be complicated, so it is recommended that you be checked by a doctor who specializes in metabolic disorders. The physician will conduct a series of tests to see if your thyroid is functioning correctly.
Earlier this year, I visited an endocrinologist because I was worried about my increasing fatigue. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and have been taking levothyroxine ever since. Hormone replacement has, among other changes, given me more energy, improved my strength, and aided in a 20-pound weight loss. My decision to get my thyroid checked has definitely changed my life for the better. If you think you may have a thyroid disorder, please visit www.thyroidawareness.com for more information.
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