If you are experiencing unexplained symptoms, including issues with weight gain or loss, anxiety, perspiration, restlessness or fatigue, you may have a problem with a small gland in your neck.
Issues with the thyroid gland, one of the nine major endocrine glands in the body, can be the underlying cause of a wide variety of health problems. It’s important to understand what the thyroid affects and to seek medical care if your thyroid may not be functioning properly.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located in the front of the neck. Endocrine glands produce and regulate chemicals called hormones. Specifically, the thyroid gland produces hormones that help the body regulate metabolic speed, or the rate at which your metabolism works. If hormone levels become too low or too high, you can experience a wide variety of strange and unwanted symptoms.
Common Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid disorders are typically classified as either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. However, hypothyroidism occurs more frequently than hyperthyroidism.
Watch the video to learn more about the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is not producing enough hormones. The most common symptom is unexplained weight gain. Individuals with hypothyroidism often feel tired, sluggish and depressed. Other common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Numbness or tingling in the hands
- Irregular menstrual periods
Slowed heartbeat and low blood pressure often occur in those with hypothyroidism.
Conversely, unexplained weight loss could be a sign of hyperthyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid is producing more hormones than the body requires. Hyperthyroidism can cause anxiety, trouble sleeping, fast heartbeat, high blood pressure, irritability and restlessness. Additional symptoms of hyperthyroidism include muscle weakness, trembling hands, vision problems, diarrhea and irregular menstrual periods.
Those with thyroid disorders may develop a goiter, or swelling in the neck. This can occur in conjunction with either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, as well as with normal thyroid hormone levels.
If you are suffering from symptoms that may be due to a thyroid disorder, talk to your doctor to determine if you should be tested. A blood test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) can help diagnose the true cause of your symptoms.
Treating Thyroid Disorders
Once diagnosed, treatments are available for those suffering from a thyroid disorder. Hypothyroidism can be treated with medication that increases hormone levels. Patients diagnosed with hyperthyroidism are normally prescribed medication to lower their hormone levels. Once medication is administered, patients typically experience noticeable improvements within a few weeks. If a thyroid problem is severe, a physician may recommend surgery to remove the thyroid gland, paired with medication.
Left untreated, thyroid disorders can decrease your quality of life and increase your risk for stroke or heart attack. CHI Saint Joseph Health – Ear, Nose and Throat Care can help if you have questions about thyroid disorders. To learn more, call 859.629.7140.
Dr. Lange is with CHI Saint Joseph Health – Ear, Nose and Throat Care. The office is located at 120 North Eagle Creek Drive, Suite 102 in Lexington. For more information, call 859.629.7140.