Thyroid Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and this tiny gland in your throat can impact you more than you know. It’s important to know the signs of these disorders because they can wreak havoc on your body if untreated. The gland can control major functions of the body including metabolism, growth, the brain, the heart, and more.

Many of the symptoms (discussed below) can be quite vague. Due to lack of education, dismissal from medical professionals, or lack of awareness, many of the conditions go unnoticed. In fact, of the approximately 20 million Americans who have thyroid disorders, 60% are unaware of their condition.

Despite its extreme impact on the body, many people do not know the function of the gland, or the symptoms that could be sign of a problem. The butterfly shaped gland secretes hormones that control many of the body’s main functions. Thyroid problems usually appear as either hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).

Hypothyroidism is most commonly caused by Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, unexplained weight gain, muscle and joint pain, dry skin, puffy face, sensitivity to the cold, slowed heart rate and more.

Similarly, hyperthyroidism is often caused by the autoimmune disease Grave’s Disease. This occurs when the thyroid gland produces an excess amount of thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism symptoms include unintentional weight loss, racing heartbeat, sweating, anxiety and nervousness, sensitivity to the heat, tremor, increased appetite and more.

Considering women are eight times more likely likely to have a thyroid disorder than men, people are often uninformed. Women oftentimes go to medical professionals with complaints such as fatigue, muscle weakness, or anxiety and are immediately dismissed. It’s important to be in tune with your body. If you feel something's not quite right, seek help.  Seek help until you find someone who actively listens to you. Don't let someone make you feel "crazy" for the way you're feeling. Women are too often stigmatized as hypochondriacs when there is something seriously wrong within their body. By educating ourselves, and finding medical professionals who validate our experiences, we can begin to get the necessary treatment. 

This January, continue to learn more about thyroid conditions. More likely than not, you know someone afflicted. And always, listen to your body.