National Thyroid Awareness runs every January for the entire month. The American Thyroid Association estimates that roughly 20 million people have a thyroid disorder, and they predict that more than 12% of the population will develop problems with their thyroid during their lifetimes.
This number could be significantly higher, but a large portion of the population isn’t aware that they have a thyroid problem. Raising awareness about your thyroid is essential because it plays a large role in your body.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
This is a butterfly-shaped, small glad that you’ll find in front of your windpipe just above your collarbone.
The thyroid gland performs several important functions in your body like regulating body weight, heart rate, breathing, cholesterol, muscle strength, and body temperature.
If you develop a problem with your thyroid or thyroid cancer, it can impact how well your gland functions. It could be difficult to lose weight, your cholesterol levels can go high, and you can have problems regulating your body temperature or heart rate.
Common Thyroid Problems
Your thyroid gland can be overactive or under-active, and this can lead to a host of health problems. We’ll outline three significant but common thyroid issues for you below.
This issue is where your thyroid gland is more active than it should be, and it’s most common when people are under 50 years old.
Symptoms like insomnia, an enlarged thyroid gland, anxiety, weight loss, rapid heart rate, excessive perspiration, increased appetite, and diarrhea all signal that you have hyperthyroidism.
If you develop this problem over 50, you may only experience two or three symptoms, and this can make diagnosing it difficult.
This condition does come with more energy association, but this can easily lead to your body breaking down after a while. In turn, you can feel more worn out and fatigued than you would if you had a proper-functioning thyroid gland.
There are other symptoms of this problem, including:
- Dry or gritty eyes and double vision
- Dry, thin skin
- Hair loss
- Increased appetite
- Increased sweating
- Oversensitivity to heat
- Shakiness or trembling
- Weight loss
On the other end of the spectrum, your thyroid could work slower than it should with a condition known as hypothyroidism. This is more common in people who are over 60, and many older adults usually experience unspecific symptoms.
Hypothyroidism often goes under-diagnosed because the senior population is prone to loss of appetite, weight loss, and memory impairment.
Common symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Brittle nails and hair
- Dry skin
- Itchy or sore scalp
- Muscle aches or weakness
- Poor appetite
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
- Weight gain
This is also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, and it’s the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It’s very common in middle-aged women, and it appears when your immune system attacks and destroys your thyroid gland while impacting its ability to produce the correct hormone levels.
You may have no obvious symptoms if you have a mild case, and the disease can be very subtle for years before it starts to progress and you show more pronounced symptoms.
The biggest symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Dry, thinning hair
- Enlarged thyroid or goiter
- Heavy and irregular periods
- Intolerance to cold
- Mild weight gain
- Puffy, pale face
When cells start to grow and multiply very quickly, thyroid cancer can start. The abnormal cells start to spread throughout your body, and there are usually aren’t any early symptoms.
You may experience a lump in your neck, voice changes, swollen lymph glands, and difficulty swallowing.
There are four main types of thyroid cancer, including:
– Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer – This is the most aggressive thyroid cancer, but it’s also the rarest form. It grows very quickly, and it can spread throughout your body quickly.
– Follicular Thyroid Cancer – This is the second most prevalent type of thyroid cancer, and these nodules grow very slowly. They appear in areas with high iodine deficiencies, and it’s one of the easiest forms to treat.
– Medullary Thyroid Cancer – This is usually a hereditary type of cancer, and it has a higher chance of spreading to your lymph nodes once it starts.
– Papillary Thyroid Cancer – This cancer grows very slowly, and it is a type of differentiated thyroid cancer. It can spread from your neck to your lymph nodes.
Your treatment for your thyroid cancer diagnosis will depend on which type of cancer you have.
Diagnosing Problems With Your Thyroid
The good news is that all thyroid conditions are treatable. Doctors will perform a physical exam, use your medical history, and order specialized blood tests to diagnose thyroid diseases or cancer.
The doctors will look at the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone in your blood, and they can use these levels to tell if you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Popular treatment options include surgery or medications, and the treatment will depend on the disease you have.
Raising Thyroid Awareness
Having greater thyroid awareness is the key to helping people recognize if they have the common symptoms of thyroid diseases or cancer.
As people gain better awareness, you will know when it’s time to make an appointment with your doctors and discuss diagnosing and treating thyroid issues.
January is thyroid awareness month, and the goal of this month is to increase people’s awareness of thyroid issues as well as treatment, prevention, and cure.