Your thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck which produces thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism and keep your body functioning normally. If this gland is overproductive or underproductive, it can lead to different types of thyroid disease, including hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Who Is Affected by Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid disease is very common and can affect anyone — men, women, infants, teenagers, and elderly people – of all ages and ethnicities. It can be present at birth (typically hypothyroidism) and can develop as you age (often after menopause in women).
Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disease can have a range of symptoms, depending on whether the gland is overactive or underactive. Common signs and symptoms of an overactive thyroid, also called hyperthyroidism, include:
- Enlarged thyroid gland in the neck (goiter)
- Irregular or unusually fast heart rate
- Losing weight without trying
- Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
- Trembling in the hands and fingers
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Warm, moist skin
- Fine, brittle hair
Signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid, also called hypothyroidism, include:
- Weight gain
- Sore muscles and joints
- Having constipation
- Intolerance to cold temperatures
- Dry skin and weak hair and nails
- Mood and memory changes
If you suspect you have a thyroid problem, visiting a healthcare provider who can evaluate your symptoms and perform a physical exam is essential. The healthcare provider may order blood tests to check the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood. An ultrasound of the thyroid gland may also be ordered in some instances.
The treatment options for thyroid disease will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition.
Hyperthyroidism: Anti-thyroid medications or radioactive iodine therapy may be used to slow the amount of hormones the thyroid gland makes. Surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland may sometimes be necessary.
Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is typically treated by replacing the amount of hormone that your thyroid is no longer making. Synthetic thyroid hormone is taken daily to return hormone levels to a healthy range.
Working with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your needs is essential.
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in iodine, selenium, and zinc can help support healthy thyroid function. It is also important to manage stress levels and exercise regularly, as stress and lack of physical activity can contribute to thyroid dysfunction. Additionally, avoiding exposure to radiation and other environmental toxins can help protect the thyroid gland.
Most people with thyroid disease can lead healthy, fulfilling lives with proper diagnosis and treatment. If you have any symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, seek medical attention promptly.
If you suspect you have thyroid disease or are experiencing symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, contact us to schedule an appointment with our Endocrinology team at SMC Physicians for evaluation and personalized treatment. Early diagnosis and proper management can help you lead a healthy and fulfilling life.