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Thyroid Awareness Q&A

Did you know that an estimated 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition and that 60% of them are unaware of their condition? The thyroid can be either overactive or underactive. And both conditions are a cause for concern.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month which brings attention to the various health problems connected to the thyroid.

Q. What is the thyroid?

A. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck in charge of your metabolism and creating new proteins. The gland is part of the endocrine system, which directly affects almost every single organ. It is responsible for regulating many health functions such as skin integrity, menstrual cycles, calcium levels, and the nervous system, heart and cholesterol levels. In addition, it controls brain development, your body temperature, respiration, metabolism and fat production. Thyroid problems begin to occur when the thyroid gland produces too much hormone or not enough.

Q. What is hyperthyroidism?

A. Hyperthyroidism (or overactive thyroid) is a condition that occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism can accelerate your body's metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism are fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, oversensitivity to heat, and dry eyes.

Q. Is there a treatment for hyperthyroidism?

A. There are several treatment options for hyperthyroidism. The best approach for you depends on your age, physical condition, the underlying cause of the hyperthyroidism, and the severity of your disorder. There are medication options as well as surgical options for more severe cases.

Q. What is hypothyroidism?

A. Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid is working slower than it should. Hypothyroidism is most common in patients over 60, and the incidence of this disease increases with age. Symptoms include unexplained weight loss, slow movements and speech, sensitivity to cold/heat, and anxiety/depression. Since older adults can oftentimes suffer memory impairment, weight loss and loss of appetite, hypothyroidism is often under-diagnosed.

Q. What is the treatment for hypothyroidism?

A. Once properly diagnosed, the standard treatment for hypothyroidism involves daily use of a synthetic thyroid hormone. This oral medication restores adequate hormone levels, reversing the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Luckily, in most cases, hyper- and hypothyroidism can be successfully treated which in turn reduces the annoying symptoms and can greatly improve quality of life.  If you are having any of the symptoms of thyroid disease, contact your healthcare provider today!

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