Everyone can relate to their “check engine” light coming on. It usually happens because a sensor buried somewhere under a hood noticed a loose cable or a hole in a vacuum hose. It’s typically not a huge problem, but it should be addressed soon, before it gets worse.
That’s like your thyroid. It’s a butterfly-shaped gland at the base and front of your neck that pumps out hormones related to your metabolism. These hormones help control how quickly you burn calories, your heart rate, whether you feel cold, tired, or restless. Having your thyroid checked might not be a bad idea if you feel off in any of these areas.
More than 12% of the U.S. population will develop some thyroid condition according to the American Thyroid Association. It’s estimated that as many as 60% of those with thyroid disease or symptoms, don’t know it.
Hypo- and Hyperthyroidism
The two most common diseases associated with the thyroid are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism — an underactive thyroid — affects about 5% of Americans aged 12 years old and up. Most cases are mild with few symptoms. Women are much more likely than men to develop it. It’s also more common in people over 60.
Hyperthyroidism — an overactive thyroid — is less common, affecting about 1% of Americans. It is also more common in women than men and people over 60. It can also lead to more serious health problems than hypothyroidism if left untreated. They include:
- An irregular heartbeat
- Graves’ ophthalmopathy which can lead to vision loss
- Menstrual and fertility issues in women
Hyperthyroidism Symptoms and Causes
Hyperthyroidism presents itself in different ways, depending on the person. They generally include:
- Weight loss despite increased appetite
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Fatigue, irritability, nervousness, or trouble sleeping
- Muscle weakness or shaky hands
- Frequent bowel movements
- Sweating or trouble tolerating heat
- A large growth on the neck called a goiter
There are several potential causes including:
- Graves’ disease which is when the immune system attacks the thyroid
- Overactive thyroid nodules
- Inflammation of the thyroid gland
- Too much iodine
- Too high of a dose of hypothyroid medicine
- A benign tumor of the pituitary gland
Treatment options include medication, radioiodine therapy, and surgery.
More on Hypothyroidism
You are more likely to have an underactive thyroid if you have other health problems like celiac disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or a deficiency of vitamin B12. Women can also develop hypothyroidism during pregnancy, but medications can usually take care of that.
Hypothyroidism can lead to high cholesterol, which is a good reason to get it treated. In extremely rare cases, untreated hypothyroidism can lead to a life-threatening slowing of body functions called myxedema coma. This condition requires immediate medical treatment.
Hypothyroidism symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Dry or thinning hair
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Joint or muscle pain
- Slowed heart rate
- Weight gain
It is typically treated with thyroid medication.
It Starts with Primary Care
The primary care doctors at AltaMed are knowledgeable about a wide variety of medical concerns. Besides giving you immunizations and routine screenings (like blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar), they can help you manage chronic, or ongoing conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart problems, arthritis, and high blood pressure. They can even help with your thyroid.
Even if your health is good, overall, a primary care doctor can help you lose weight, reduce stress, become more active, and achieve other health goals.
Make an appointment today by calling (888) 499-9303 to enroll.