Thyroid problems are becoming more and more common in today’s society. Improper nutrition and lack of nutrients in the soil contribute to the widespread problem. It is important to understand exactly what the thyroid does in order to know when it is not working properly. Then proper medical attention can be sought and the condition can be diagnosed and taken care of quickly.
Small Butterfly Shaped Gland
Located directly below the Adam’s apple in the throat, the thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland. When the thyroid is not working properly it can become swollen and inflamed. When this happens you can see a small bulge in that area. Your doctor can feel the size of the gland by having you swallow while his or her hands are around your neck.
The thyroid gland is the manufacturer of several hormones the body needs to function properly, mainly T3 and T4. These hormones control the body’s metabolism and energy levels among other things.
When there is either not enough of these hormones being produced by the thyroid, or too much of them, the body does not function correctly. Not enough hormones and the body goes sluggish. Too much hormone being pumped out sends the body into overdrive.
Affects the Entire Body
Since these hormones affect the entire body it is very important to keep the thyroid working properly. There is not an area of your body that cannot be affected by a damaged thyroid gland over time.
The brain, through memory loss and moodiness, your energy levels, your ability to have children, joint pain, heart problems, weight gain or loss, irritability and intolerance to cold or heat are just a few of the problems that can occur with thyroid disorders.
Other Health Issues
An improperly working thyroid can lead to other health problems as well. Thyroid disorders are often part of autoimmune problems and can go hand in hand with diabetes, high cholesterol and other problems. Plus when the thyroid is out of whack for a long period it can lead to health problems. Many of these symptoms, such as arthritis type pain, will diminish once the hormone levels are back up to normal.
Thyroid Disorders – Who Do They Affect?
Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, cancer of the thyroid, goiters and autoimmune thyroid problems are prevalent today. Untreated these diseases create havoc in the body. But just who is affected by thyroid problems and are there certain people who have a higher risk?
Thyroid Problems Can Affect Everyone
Thyroid disorders can affect men, women and children. They can attack the young, the old and those in the prime of life. According to the American Thyroid Association approximately half of the people who have thyroid problems do not even know it.
Because the symptoms of thyroid problems can appear to be symptoms of other illnesses, the thyroid often goes untested and overlooked. Tiredness, for example, is one of the main symptoms of an underactive thyroid. But obviously this symptom can be an indicator of many other health issues as well.
But there are certain groups of people who are more susceptible to thyroid disorders than others.
Women are much more prone to thyroid disorders than men, up to eight times more likely according to one study done. But again because the symptoms involved can be the same as for other problems, thyroid disorders are often misdiagnosed.
Many times women who are feeling tired and run down are told that it is just “hormones” and will go away. Or that it is pre-menopause or just in their head. It may be hormones, the lack of them that is, that are causing the problem instead of “female” problems.
Pregnant or post-partum women are more likely to develop thyroid problems than at other times in their lives. Pregnancy, menopause and puberty are often when thyroid problems begin in many women. But these problems often go undiagnosed for years.
History of Autoimmune Problems
If your family has a history of thyroid disease then there is a greater risk involved. Those whose family members have had autoimmune problems are at an increased risk as well. Autoimmune problems such as diabetes, colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and pernicious anemia can tie into a greater risk of thyroid problems.
You may want to have your thyroid checked on a regular basis of there is a pattern for any type of serious autoimmune problem in your family.
Others at Risk
If you have been exposed to radiation or an extreme amount of x-rays you could be at risk. The thyroid is very sensitive to radiation. When receiving head or dental x-ray ask for a thyroid collar to prevent exposure.
Thyroid problems are also more common in the elderly. Women over fifty and men over sixty should have their thyroid tested if they are showing any signs of thyroid-related problems.
Men & Children
While thyroid disorders are less common in men and children, it can happen. With children it is especially important to catch the problem early on because it can affect their growth if left untreated.
Babies are occasionally born with thyroid problems and need to be treated right away for good mental health as well as physical.
The Fuel That Runs the Body
When the thyroid gland does not secrete enough of the necessary hormones the result is hypothyroidism. The body cannot do what it needs to without the correct amount of these hormones. It is similar to an engine trying to run without fuel. It is going to cough, spit, run slow and eventually give out.
Having not enough T3 and T4 in your system, the main hormones the thyroid puts out, will cause the same problem in your body. Lack of the proper thyroid hormones can cause everything from severe joint pain to dry, puffy skin.
Affects Everyone Differently
While there are many common symptoms to low thyroid, different people experience different symptoms. Extreme tiredness usually rears its head eventually in every one with hypothyroidism but other symptoms can vary.
One person may be tired all the time, have arthritic symptoms and hair loss. Someone else may be battling memory loss, infertility and intolerance to cold. This is why it is important to understand the many symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Symptoms to Watch For
There are several symptoms that are common to hypothyroidism. If you have one or more of them that cannot be explained by your doctor ask to have your thyroid tested. With some doctors you may have to insist.
Symptoms common to hypothyroidism are:
- Feeling tired all the time – having a hard time getting up in the morning.
- Weight gain or unable to loose weight no matter how hard you try.
- Swollen, thick, puffy or dry skin
- Dry hair or hair loss
- Intolerance to cold – may feel cold even in heated room or the summer
- Heavy or lack of menstrual cycles
- Memory loss or slowed thinking
Feeling tired all the time can take its toll on the body but hypothyroidism is treatable. It may take your doctor awhile, working with you, to find the proper dose and type of medication that works best for you. Some symptoms will disappear more quickly than others. With a little patience you will soon feel like your old self again.
Living Well With a Thyroid Disorder
Being a victim of a thyroid disorder can be overwhelming. It may seem like your life will never be the same again. The symptoms can be painful and drag you down. But be assured there is hope. You can live a full and happy life in spite of thyroid problems.
The first step is seeking treatment. Find a good doctor who specializes in thyroid problems and make an appointment. Follow up and maintain contact with your doctor. Work with your doctor on a prescribed plan of treatment and stick to it. Thyroid treatment is not something that can be done with a hit and miss method.
If the medications recommended are not working, talk to your doctor and change things. Be aggressive in helping yourself. Go to the library and read everything there is on your particular thyroid problem. Research medications and natural treatments. Make yourself a thyroid expert.
As with any disease or health issue, you will want to maintain a healthy diet. Avoid sugar and processed foods that can add to your problem. Find out which foods can hinder good thyroid production and which ones can boost an immune system. Research vitamins and supplements and ask your doctor which ones you should be taking. Eat regular meals and avoid junk food.
Walk, walk, walk. Getting plenty of exercise will do much towards building up a lagging thyroid. Even if you are tired try to walk some each day. Thirty minutes of exercise a day will have you feeling less tired and more energetic. It is not only good for the body but helps clear the mind as well.
Help Someone Else
You will not find this advice at your doctor’s office but volunteering and helping others is an excellent antidote for many ailments. And even if it does not cure you it will take your mind off your problems, which is always a plus. When you reach out to others you realize your problems, even physical ones, are not quite as bad as you thought.