It’s estimated that nearly 60 million Americans suffer from some type of thyroid condition with ten percent of the population unaware they have an undiagnosed thyroid problem. Knowing the common symptoms associated with an under or over active thyroid is important. Women, in particular, should become more familiar with the signs and risk factors of thyroid dysfunction because they are six to eight times more likely to have thyroid problems than men.
The thyroid secretes hormones that help control the basic metabolism of the body as well as influence body temperature, calcium levels and weight loss. It’s a butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower neck below the “adam’s apple” and above the collarbones. When damaged or surgically reduced, the thyroid slows its production of hormones leading to a condition known as hypothyroidism.
Individuals with an under active thyroid have an increased risk for depression, trouble losing weight and may develop dry, brittle hair or hair loss, general muscle or joint aches, pains and stiffness and prolonged constipation. Women with hypothyroidism can also have longer or more frequent periods with increased pain or infertility, high blood cholesterol despite a normal diet and regular exercise and develop dry or coarse skin.
On the other hand, an over active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is associated with symptoms like extreme fatique, insomia, severe hair loss and thin skin, a hoarse voice, high blood pressure, diarrhea, and shorter or lighter periods. Some people with hyperthyroidism have muscle weakness so severe that it’s difficult to walk up stairs or hold objects.
Any one of the following factors may increase the chance of having a thyroid problem:
•Pregnant, or having had a baby within the past year
•Over 50 years old
•Having had a previous thyroid condition, or been treated for one
•Recent highly stressful event (divorce, death in the family)
•Family history of thyroid disease
•Radiation exposure to the neck
Most thyroid conditions resolve or improve when patients receive proper diagnosis and treatment.