January is Thyroid Awareness Month in the U.S.
The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck and helps send out hormones to control activities in the body, like breathing and pumping blood.
It also helps children’s bodies to develop as they grow up and controls weight.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of people have thyroid disease, with glands that don’t produce enough hormones to meet their bodies’ needs, or make too many.
Hypothyroidism – or underactive thyroid – is the most common reason some need thyroid hormone replacement and slows the metabolism.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can be caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, thyroiditis, treatment of hyperthyroidism or hereditary conditions.
The CDC reports radiation treatment of certain cancers and thyroid removal can also cause hypothyroidism.
Symptoms include fatigue, numbness or tingling in the hands, gaining weight, constipation, soreness, high blood cholesterol levels, depression, sensitivity to cold temperatures, dry and coarse skin and hair, a decrease in libido, frequent and heavy periods, physical changes in the face, brain fog and having one’s voice become lower and hoarser.
Treatments include medications like levothyroxine, which replace the amount of hormone the thyroid is no longer producing.
Conversely, hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine, according to Mayo Clinic.
Hyperthyroidism can accelerate the body’s metabolism, causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat and unintentional weight loss.
Symptoms include increased appetite, heart palpitations, nervousness and anxiety, tremor, sweating, changes in menstrual patterns, increased sensitivity to heat, changes in bowel patterns, an enlarged thyroid gland, fatigue, muscle weakness, trouble sleeping, skin thinning, and fine and brittle hair.
There are several treatments available for hyperthyroidism, including anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine to slow the production of thyroid hormones. Sometimes, surgery is necessary to remove all or part of the gland.
Women are more likely to have thyroid disease than men – especially immediately following pregnancy and menopause.
The Cleveland Clinic says people may be at a higher risk of developing a disease if they are genetically predisposed, have a medical condition, take a medication that’s high in iodine, are older than 60 and have had treatment for a past thyroid condition or cancer.