What is a thyroid?
The butterfly-shaped gland is located between the voice box and the collarbone, and wrapped around the windpipe, the thyroid helps control your body’s energy supply. It pumps out thyroid hormone, a powerful chemical that regulates metabolism and body temperature, says endocrinologist Jeffrey Powell, M.D., of Northern Westchester Hospital in New York.
It works with every system in your body to keep your brain sharp, your bowels moving, your periods regular and your skin, nails and hair healthy.
Thyroid disorders are often genetic and typically involve the production of too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much (hyperthyroidism).
Women’s Health reports that women are as much as 12 times more likely to develop a thyroid problem than men are.
- Dry skin
- Hair Loss
- Always exhausted and tired
- Feeling colder than everyone else
- Irregular periods
- Low libido
- Feeling weak during a workout that you use to have no problem getting through
- Sudden weight loss
- Rapid heartbeat
- Constant anxiety
Five reasons to be aware of your thyroid
- Thyroid cancer: This is the most feared thyroid disease. Fortunately, it is not as common as other cancers and can frequently be cured.
- Autoimmunity: A failure of the immune system could cause inflammation and destruction of the thyroid gland. As a consequence your thyroid produces too little or too many thyroid hormones.
- Infertility: Thyroid disease can cause infertility in both men and women, if you have a family history of thyroid disease your risk of thyroid dysfunction is increased. If thyroid problems are the only cause for an inability to conceive, treatment could restore fertility.
- Anxiety/depression: Many patients with thyroid disorders complain about problems with mood and cognitive function. Appropriate treatment of the thyroid dysfunction could reverse most of the complaints.
- Iodine deficiency: Iodine is the key component of thyroid hormone production and plays an important role in fetal and infant development. A lack of this natural chemical element is detrimental for your and your children’s health.
Source: Thyroid Awareness
How can we detect thyroid disease?
Apart from taking note of the symptoms, the best way to catch the problem early is to do a simple blood screen called a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test that can detect a gland gone crazy.
Check your neck
An enlarged thyroid may mean your gland is producing too much or too little hormone. The key is knowing what to watch for. Perform this simple self-check once every two months.
- Hold a mirror in front of you and focus your gaze on the lower front area of your neck, right above your collarbone.
- Tilt your head back, moving the mirror along with you.
- Take a medium-size sip of water.
- As you swallow, watch your thyroid area, checking for any unusual bulges or protrusions. (Note: Don’t confuse your thyroid with your Adam’s apple, which is farther up.)
- If you see anything suspicious, go to your doc.
Treatment for Thyroid
You can’t do much about the genetic and autoimmune risk factors, but you can protect your neck by making sure you get enough iodine, which has been closely linked to thyroid hormone production. Jeffrey R. Garber, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School recommends taking a daily multivitamin that contains 150 micrograms of iodine (220 micrograms if you’re pregnant; 290 micrograms if you’re breastfeeding).
If you seek a physician, they will likely prescribe a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine for hypothyroidism. For hyperthyroidism, treatment may involve a daily drug that slows down your overactive gland.