The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck. It is smaller than your palm but affects your entire body from your weight, appetite, digestion, vision, brain function, and more. The endocrine system is responsible for a variety of your body’s functions and at the heart of that system is the thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland, simplified as “thyroid” by most, is like your car’s distributor which routes or distributes the correct amount of current to the spark plugs to initiate a firing sequence in the exact order necessary to fire the engine. If the distributor is working improperly the entire system will fail. This is exactly what occurs when your thyroid works improperly—and for too many, this butterfly-sized problem flies under the radar for too long.
Common Thyroid Disorders
It’s estimated that 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime and currently it’s estimated that 20 million Americans currently have a form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of those affected are unaware of their condition! In many cases the symptoms can go unnoticed for months or years before a thyroid condition is diagnosed and treated. The best way to bring down the number of undiagnosed thyroid disorders is to raise awareness of common disorders and the symptoms that go with them.
Hyperthyroidism – Caused by an overactive thyroid gland and results in too much hormone production, Hyperthyroidism affects 1 percent of women and is most common in women. Hyperthyroidism may be caused by Grave’s disease which causes nodules on the thyroid gland. Grave’s disease can be diagnosed by a medical exam, blood test, radioactive iodine uptake, ultrasound, and other imaging tests.
Hypothyroidism – When the thyroid produces too little hormone it is underactive, a condition more common than Hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism affects 4.6 percent of people and symptoms are less severe than those caused by Hyperthyroidism. An underactive thyroid may be caused by Hashimoto’s disease which can be diagnosed by medical exam and blood test which includes hormone and antibody levels.
Goiter – An enlargement of the thyroid gland affects individuals globally due to an iodine deficiency and can be caused by Hyperthyroidism in the U.S. where many salts and foods contain iodine. Goiters can happen at any age but are more common in women. A goiter can be diagnosed by medical exam, blood test which includes hormone levels and antibodies, ultrasonography, thyroid scan, and biopsy.
Nodules – Different than a goiter, nodules are growths that form on the thyroid gland. This occurrence may be the result of an underlying illness such as Hashimoto’s or an iodine deficiency. It affects more women than men, and the nodules may be large enough to feel, or too tiny to notice. Thyroid nodules can be diagnosed by medical exam, thyroid function tests, ultrasonography, biopsy, and thyroid scan.
It’s important to note that every person has a thyroid unless it has been medically removed and it can malfunction at any age. It’s important to identify symptoms and follow through with routine medical appointments for children and adults. When a thyroid condition is diagnosed, treatment and recommendations should be followed.
For more information about your butterfly-shaped gland that keeps your body functioning properly, check out Thyroidawareness.com.