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Learning about your Thyroid during Thyroid Awareness Month

Published on Jan 09, 2024 | 11:15 AM

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Although small, the thyroid plays a big part in many functions of your body. Our goal at Call-On-Doc is to help you understand the significance of the thyroid and how your thyroid could be affecting your overall health.

Like other chronic conditions, thyroid diseases often go unnoticed for much of their development, with over half of those with them (up to 60%) left unaware and untreated. Estimated to affect around 20 million Americans, it’s then important to understand your thyroid, know how to monitor it, and know the symptoms of thyroid disease. (1)

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, just below the larynx and vocal cords. Developing thyroxine and triiodothyronine, among others, the gland plays a big role in regulating the body’s organs, temperature, energy expenditure, and more. (2) The thyroid is controlled by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, which work together to maintain the balance of hormone levels and ensure overall metabolic stability. Thyroid diseases can thus affect multiple important processes throughout the body, making it important to get tested regularly. 

What are symptoms of thyroid problems?

The symptoms of thyroid problems can vary depending on whether the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). It's important to note that individuals may experience different symptoms, and the severity can also vary.

Hypothyroidism

Hyperthyroidism

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Weight gain

  • Cold intolerance

  • Dry skin and hair

  • Constipation

  • Muscle aches and stiffness

  • Joint pain

  • Depression

  • Slowed heart rate

  • Heat intolerance

  • Sweating

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Changes in menstrual patterns

  • Frequent bowel movements

Who’s affected by thyroid disease?

Everyone and anyone can develop a thyroid disease, but women run a significantly higher five to eight times more likelihood than men. In fact, 1 in 8 women run the risk of developing a disorder concerning their thyroid. (1) While the condition remains with the person for the rest of their lives after it develops, that does not necessarily mean they can’t live a normal life. Thanks to modern forms of medicine, the vast majority of cases respond well to treatment.

How do I get tested for thyroid problems?

There are a number of tests that can be taken for your thyroid, and they normally start through the blood work conducted most often during annual wellness checks or physicals. While not everyone will get bloodwork done annually, there are also other tests that don’t necessarily need bloodwork but do need to be requested. In either case, these tests can include: 

  • Thyroid Stimulated Hormone Test: TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid to produce T3 and T4. High TSH levels may indicate hypothyroidism, while low levels may suggest hyperthyroidism.
  • Thyroxine Test: T4 is one of the thyroid hormones. Measuring the levels of free T4 helps assess the amount of active thyroid hormone circulating in the bloodstream. 
  • Triiodothyronine Test: T3 is the more active form of thyroid hormone. Measuring free T3 helps evaluate the actual amount of active thyroid hormone available to cells.
  • Thyroid Antibody Tests: These tests, including anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies, help diagnose autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
  • Thyroid Ultrasound Tests: This imaging test may be used to evaluate the size and structure of the thyroid gland, identifying any nodules or abnormalities.

Why you should be aware of thyroid diseases

Similar to chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and hypertension, you will not necessarily notice any symptoms of most thyroid diseases until they have progressed significantly. With how much they can affect the body and its processes, it is important to not just know the tests to request from your doctor but also to be aware of your family history, the habits that may contribute, and the life events that could potentially be a cause. 

How do you keep your thyroid levels in check?

Maintaining thyroid levels involves a combination of healthy lifestyle choices and, if necessary, medical interventions. As referenced in the Call-On-Doc Guide to Hypothyroidism, a balanced diet with sufficient iodine, selenium, and nutrients is essential for thyroid function, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management all contribute to keeping your thyroid healthy. Additionally, regular check-ups with your healthcare provider and an understanding of your family history surrounding thyroid diseases are important. 

Call-On-Doc is here to help you stay happy and healthy, offering options for those suffering from hypothyroidism, including prescription refills. Stay ontop of your health and if you notice any symptoms that could relate to a thyroid issue, start an online visit today to help you manage your 2024 wellness goals.

Source:

  1. “General Information/Press Room.” American Thyroid Association, https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/.
  2. “Thyroid: What It Is, Function & Problems.” Cleveland Clinic, 7 June 2022, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23188-thyroid.
  3. “Thyroid: What It Is, Function & Problems.” Cleveland Clinic, 7 June 2022, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23188-thyroid.

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Wayne C. Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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