Thyroid Disease Awareness Month is honored in the month of January; so here we are! I remember a time in my life when thyroid disease wasn’t even a thought that entered my mind.
All of that changed in October 2016 when I discovered a lump in my throat. In May of 2017 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Hypothyroidism. It was like my world had been turned upside down. I had symptoms for a long time, but for some reason my doctor’s never put two in two together.
If I hadn’t grown a goiter; I’m convinced they would’ve been none the wiser for even longer than they were.
What is a thyroid?
A thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits right in front of your neck.
The thyroid is the “powerhouse” of the body as it secretes hormones that help keep your body functioning. To be more specific:
Thyroid hormones act throughout the body, influencing metabolism, growth and development, and body temperaturehttps://www.webmd.com/women/picture-of-the-thyroid#1
Such a small organ plays such a huge part! If your thyroid is normal and healthy, you won’t be able to touch your neck and know it’s there.
How does the thyroid work?
The thyroid uses iodine from food to make the hormones triiodothyronine and (T3) andthyroxine (T4).
There’s a small gland in our brains called the pituitary gland. This gland is responsible for sending out a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid. As a result the thyroid will release the T3 and T4 hormone.
What is thyroid disease?
Thyroid disease is any malfunction of the thyroid that causes it to over produce or under produce the proper amount of thyroid hormone. If the pituitary gland recognizes not enough hormone is being produced; it will send out more TSH. This is called hypothyroidism (under-active). If the pituitary gland recognizes an overproduction of thyroid hormone; it will release less TSH. This is called hyperthyroidism (over-active).
Sometimes hypo and hyperthyroidism can occur as a result of other diseases of the thyroid.
Grave’s Disease is an autoimmune disorder that is most commonly responsible for hyperthyroidism. It’s a hereditary disease that can develop at any time but is most common in women. Symptoms include:
- hand tremors
- increased or irregular heartbeat
- excessive sweating
- difficulty sleeping
- diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
- altered menstrual cycle
- bulging eyes and vision problems
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is another autoimmune disease that is most commonly responsible for hypothyroidism. Diagnosis is often made through blood work where most likely elevated TSH will show. Antibodies called Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) would also be present. Symptoms of Hashimoto’s include:
- weight gain
- dry skin
- dry, thinning hair
- pale, puffy face
- heavy and irregular menstruation
- intolerance to cold
- enlarged thyroid, or goiter
Goiters are also a common thyroid disease. A goiter is an overgrowth of they thyroid. It typically occurs because of lack of iodine. However, goiters can grow as a result of the above stated diseases. Goiters I usually identified when patients present with enlarged necks, complaints of difficulty swallowing, or choking in one’s sleep.
Nodules are also a form of thyroid disease. They are growths (typically benign) on the surface of the thyroid. They can either be solid masses with no fluid or cystic masses filled with fluid. A biopsy can determine whether the nodules are benign or cancerous.
Thyroid cancer is also another thyroid disease. It goes without saying that thyroid cancer is exactly what it sounds like. There are different types of thyroid cancer:
- Papillary thyroid cancer
- Follicular thyroid cancer
- Medullary thyroid cancer
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer
- Thyroid lymphoma
Preventing Thyroid Disease
Unfortunately, thyroid disease isn’t something you can really prevent. Most times the malfunction of the thyroid is hereditary. However, knowing the signs and symptoms are a great way to get ahead of any severe symptoms.
Most times, people are suffering with symptoms for awhile, but because they don’t know they symptoms they don’t think to discuss it with their physicians.
Thyroid disease is really one of those things where knowledge is power. Don’t be afraid to ask your your doctor for a thyroid panel if you begin to exhibit a combination of the above symptoms and also if you know thyroid disease to run in the family.
I hope that this information was helpful in better helping you understand your thyroid and it’s function. I also hope that it is useful as you pursue your healthcare.
My biggest regret was not listening to my body more and failing to be more proactive. Dealing with thyroid disease has taught me so much and I hope it helps more people to become proactive in caring for their bodies and minds!
Until next time,