What You Should Know

The thyroid is that small, unassuming gland in the front of the neck. Despite its tiny presence, this gland packs a punch, secreting hormones into the body that assist in maintaining and regulating every cell in the body. Pretty impressive, huh?

When patients go to their health care provider complaining of various, nonspecific symptoms, it can throw the doctor for a loop. Why do the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction vary so much? Since it is involved in pretty much everything in the body’s functioning, it can also begin to affect different areas of the body in each case, often making diagnosing thyroid disorder difficult.

The symptoms of thyroid disease are:

  • fatigue
  • rapid weight gain or weight loss
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • muscle and joint pain
  • intolerance to cold
  • poor concentration
  • swelling in neck area
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The two most common thyroid problems are the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism), and the underproduction of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism). Patients with hyperthyroidism most commonly report feeling wired and anxious, while patients with hypothyroidism report opposing effects - reporting lethargy, having brain fog, and even depression.

According to the American Thyroid Association, An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.

Thyroid disease is far more common in women than in men. “Women are more likely to have thyroid disease, depending on the study, five to eight times more than men,” said Dr. Sabina Casula, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Here’s what you can you do if you suspect you may have thyroid dysfunction.

If you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms and haven’t determined their cause, the best advice is to make a visit to your health care provider and ask them to check your thyroid. This usually requires a physical exam and hormone blood testing. It shouldn’t take long, and often if they find your thyroid hormone levels to be off, they will prescribe hormone therapy.

If a life filled with hormone therapy isn’t your cup of tea, there are programs available which utilize alternative methods. Programs such as functional medicine have been proven to effectively treat underlying causes of thyroid dysfunction, and have helped many patients reverse the symptoms of thyroid disease - such as weight gain, depression, and concentration issues. They actually provide a more comprehensive and in-depth evaluation and treatment plan that will help to get you in optimal health, and without lifelong use of synthetic hormone therapy.

Either way, understanding how the thyroid functions and recognizing the signs of dysfunction is crucial for early diagnosis and treatment.

Learn about hypothyroidism

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