Roughly 1 in 8 women will acquire some kind of thyroid disorder, and 60% of them won’t even know it. With about 20 million people suffering from thyroid disease in the U.S. alone, an estimated 12 million Americans are unaware that they have a serious, even potentially life-threatening, condition. Are you one of them?
Are You at Risk?
Do you have a history of thyroid disease in your family? Or, perhaps you’re feeling tired and gaining or losing weight inexplicably? Feeling depressed or forgetful? Does it seem that you are losing more hair than usual when you shower? Or maybe your anxiety has been through the roof and you can’t sleep. It might be more than your hectic schedule. That’s exactly what most people would attribute to such a broad display of symptoms. There are several causes of thyroid disease, so the symptoms of hypothyroid and hyperthyroid diseases do vary.
Hypothyroid disease, which occurs when the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, generally causes depression and forgetfulness along with extreme fatigue and unexplained weight gain.
Hyperthyroid disease, which occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, typically causes anxiety, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, unexplained weight loss, irritated eyes, and blurred vision.
With so many nonspecific symptoms, it’s no wonder people put off calling the doctor. Sometimes the first time you approach medical help (or even the fifth) you might be told that your symptoms are due to stress or depression, and that diet, exercise, or even psychiatric medications are in order. Don’t give up! Be sure to ask your doctor to check your thyroid function if you’re exhibiting these symptoms without any other obvious causes. Unfortunately, unchecked thyroid disease can eventually lead to more than weight changes and fatigue.
Don’t Put It Off
When left untreated, thyroid disease can cause heart disease, vision problems, osteoporosis, and even infertility. Furthermore, sometimes the underlying issue is an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism) or Grave’s (hyperthyroidism) --- which can also attack the eyes in a substantial way. By staying on top of your health and self-advocating, you can help to prevent those complications and others.
At your yearly physical, your doctor should feel your throat for any abnormalities and test your blood for certain thyroid markers. In the meantime, you can check your thyroid for visible nodules with this easy home-test. If you or your doctor find anything unusual, you’ll need more tests to locate the cause. Blood tests for hormones, antibodies, and other factors are as simple as any other blood tests. Abnormalities of the thyroid gland can usually be checked by a scan with some contrast or iodine in an injection. Once you nail down the problem, you can start getting better. While thyroid conditions tend to be chronic, many can be managed quite well with medications, supplements, and diet.