Did you know that close to 60% of Americans with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition? That small gland shaped like a butterfly at the base of your neck greatly influences our health. As per the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition at some point in their life. Although no one is immune to thyroid problems, women run a risk five to eight times higher than men of developing thyroid issues.
Ensuring that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly is extremely important for our body’s overall well-being. Undiagnosed thyroid problems can put you at increased risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, infertility, and other serious conditions.
What Is the Thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, right below Adam’s apple. This powerhouse gland influences the function of important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and skin.
The thyroid produces two hormones — triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) — that regulate various processes in the body such as blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, metabolism, muscle strength, appetite, and how the body reacts to other hormones. The thyroid gland also helps make calcitonin, which helps regulate calcium in your body.
The pituitary gland controls the level of hormones produced by the thyroid. The pituitary gland creates thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) that signals the thyroid to produce and release the right amount of hormones to meet the body’s needs. In turn, the pituitary responds to signals from the thyroid (T3 and T4) and from another gland called the hypothalamus (which releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone or TRH), both of which control how the pituitary releases TSH.
When the thyroid is not producing enough hormones, you have hypothyroidism. And if it’s producing too much, you have hyperthyroidism.
Let’s look at the reasons you should have your thyroid checked.
1. You’re always tired
We all get tired sometimes. But if you are taking care of yourself and are still exhausted, consider a thorough evaluation of your hormone levels. A condition called hypothyroidism may be responsible for your fatigue and sluggishness. Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone in your system. Without sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone in your bloodstream and cells, your muscles get weak. Hypothyroidism’s lack of thyroxine can drain your body of all its energy, making it difficult for you to perform basic day-to-day functions.
2. You’re easily depressed or moody.
Hormones play a significant role in your overall mood and mental wellness. Serotonin is the feel-good hormone that is integral to your moods. Imbalanced hormones can impair the normal functioning of your brain’s serotonin levels. If you constantly feel depressed without reason, it may be due to your thyroid. Research suggests that patients with hypothyroidism are prone to develop depressive symptoms. Hyperthyroidism may render feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and irritation.
3. Fluctuations in your weight
If you’re experiencing unexplained weight loss or weight gain but haven’t altered your portions or eating habits, you are likely fluctuating between hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid). Both of these conditions hugely influence your metabolism, which directly affects your weight.
Hyperthyroidism causes your thyroid gland to produce excess hormone thyroxine, hastening your body’s metabolism, leading to weight loss. In contrast, in hypothyroidism, your body does not produce enough thyroxine, which slows down the metabolism, making you gain weight.
4. Sleep Problems
Hormones are one of the many variables that impact sleep patterns. These chemical messengers are powerful and have many essential roles throughout your body. If you aren’t getting enough sleep or your sleep isn’t sound, your hormones could be at play. Hyperthyroidism can cause nervousness, irritability, and muscle weakness, making sleeping difficult. An overactive thyroid may also lead to night sweats and frequent urges to urinate, both of which can disrupt sleep. On the other hand, people with hypothyroidism often experience trouble tolerating cold at night and joint or muscle pain that disrupts sleep.
5. A change in your appearance
Along with weight fluctuations, look for changes in your appearance, including changes in the quality and vitality of hair such as thinning or more brittle hair, dry, flaky, itchy, or irritated skin, a puffy or rounded face, or swelling at the base of your neck or in your joints.
Even if you show no symptoms, it’s important to know the possible signs of trouble, so that you can seek medical advice sooner. And If you think you might be experiencing symptoms related to thyroid disorders or notice a change in appearance to your thyroid, book an appointment with us today.