The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland on the front of the neck which regulates many important body functions such as metabolic control, heart rate and heat regulation. The thyroid gland produces the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 as well as other hormones after receiving a chemical signal from the brain. About 1 in 8 of us develop conditions associated with improper thyroid function. You develop symptoms of thyroid disease if the thyroid gland is overactive or underactive. Rarely cancer can develop in the thyroid gland as well. Sometimes your body will attack the thyroid gland and the resulting inflammation will result in a condition called thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a common cause for hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. Risk factors for thyroid disease include a family history of thyroid disease, female gender (especially after pregnancy or during menopause), exposure to radiation and previous thyroid surgery. Symptoms of underactive thyroid include fatigue, dry skin, hoarseness, feeling cold when everyone else is warm, constipation, weight gain, swelling in the face or feet, depression and changes in your menstrual cycle. High cholesterol may also be associated with hypothyroidism. Many of these symptoms are common in women and should be discussed with your doctor if they occur. Thyroid disease is diagnosed with blood work after a complete evaluation by your medical provider. TSH is the lab test most often used to monitor thyroid function but your doctor will often check your levels of T3 and T4 as well. Hypothyroidism is treated with prescription medication. It is very important to take your medicine as prescribed every day for best results. Please consult with your doctor if you continue to have symptoms after you start medication as medication adjustments are sometimes required after starting therapy.

Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is a serious and sometimes life threatening condition which requires immediate attention. Hyperthyroidism occurs when your body produces too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include rapid or irregular heartbeat, weight loss, irritability, dizziness, shaky hands, vision changes, infertility, difficulty sleeping and elevated blood sugar. Please see your provider if these symptoms occur. Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed through blood work, but often further testing such as ultrasound or thyroid scanning is required to determine the cause of thyroid hormone overproduction. Hyperthyroidism is typically treated with medication but sometimes the overactive gland will be to be treated with a chemical called radioactive iodine to destroy the excess glandular tissue causing symptoms. Rarely surgery is required to remove the malfunctioning gland. You may have to take thyroid hormone replacement therapy after thyroid surgery or radioactive iodine ablation if the procedure destroys too much thyroid tissue. Thyroid disease is a common and debilitating illness that is very treatable. Please schedule an evaluation with your provider today if you have symptoms of thyroid disease.

By BitMED Provider: Traci L French MD