By Deana M. Newman
TNCP Senior Health Correspondent
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the base of your neck and acts as a conductor for the body’s orchestra of organs. Its primary function is directing how well your body utilizes energy received from eating foods. In other words, the thyroid gland is the key used to ignite your body’s metabolism through its production and secretion of thyroid hormones.
Today, there are several million people within the United States with Thyroid disease and many have yet to be diagnosed. According to the Thyroid Foundation of America, women are eight times more likely to have thyroid disorders than men and the risks are higher if you have other immune-system problems such as insulin-dependent diabetes, are pregnant or a new mother, and are a woman over fifty or man over sixty years of age. When a thyroid gland is not very active, meaning its hormone production is below normal levels, the condition is known as hypothyroidism. On the other hand, when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces more thyroid hormones than the body needs, the condition is known as hyperthyroidism. Below are symptoms which may be associated with the above conditions:
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Dry brittle hair and nails
Weight gain and fluid retention
Heavy or irregular menstrual flow
Rapid heart rate
Unusual weight loss
Loss of scalp hair
Change in menstrual cycles
Protrusion of the eyes
The symptoms of an unhealthy thyroid are very common to other ailments making its diagnosis difficult. The Harvard Health Publications recently reported, “the symptoms of thyroid diseases are so wide-ranging, even doctors often don’t realize that the thyroid is to blame.” Fortunately, a blood test known as the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test is available and can identify thyroid issues even before the onset of symptoms. Early detection is beneficial for successful medical therapy.
Your body is a miracle machine, one that must be treated with special care and never ignored. Though tiny in size, the thyroid gland has a massive role. Delaying treatment of an ill-thyroid can have a significant impact on overall health and quality of life. If you are at risk for thyroid disease or currently present the above symptoms, seek assistance from your primary physician or Endocrinologist. Additional information on thyroid health may be found at www.thyroidawareness.com.
Deana Newman is currently a Cardiovascular Perfusionist at Sparrow Hospital and a Master’s candidate in
Health Communications at Michigan State University.