Experts estimate that as many as 20 million people worldwide currently suffer from some type of thyroid disease. It’s also estimated that as much as 60% of people affected, are completely unaware of their condition. Thyroid disease is 4 to 7 times more common amongst women. If left undetected and untreated, a thyroid disorder can throw your normal menstrual cycle and fertility into disarray. Being informed and aware of the symptoms is crucial to early detection.
Situated on the front of the neck and shaped a bit like a bowtie, the thyroid gland generates hormones that regulate the body's metabolic rate. Among other things, these hormones help maintain our body temperatures, control how we use vitamins and regulate how fast our bodies consume calories to produce energy.
The thyroid’s proper and healthy functioning is incredibly important to our overall physical and emotional wellbeing - making early detection and medical intervention vital. When genetic problems or diseases impair thyroid function, the body may produce either too little or too much thyroid hormone. When this happens, a person may experience many troubling symptoms that can negatively impact the quality of life.
Often, changes in emotions and moods can be the initial telltale signs of a thyroid disorder. These subtle changes are often difficult to pinpoint, given how easily these emotions may be attributed to other stresses and upsets in daily life.
When the thyroid produces too much hormone (known as hyperthyroidism), the patient will often feel unusually nervous, restless, anxious, irritable or impatient. When too little thyroid hormone is produced (known as hypothyroidism), the patient may feel lethargic, depressed and completely exhausted.
Easily detected with a simple blood test, thyroid disorders and their symptoms are usually easily resolved with medical intervention. These emotional symptoms are only temporary and the patient’s usual mood and personality will return with hormone stabilisation.
Common Symptoms of Thyroid Problems
When the thyroid gland produces too much hormone, a person experiences hyperthyroidism. The most common signs include:
- Weight loss in spite of increased appetite
- Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
- Muscle weakness or trembling hands
- Light or brief menstrual periods
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- Higher blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
When the thyroid gland produces too little hormone, a person experiences hypothyroidism. The most common signs include:
- Excessive sleeping
- Slow mental processing
- Slowed heart rate
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin or hair
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Getting Tested
Your doctor can uncover potential thyroid problems using blood tests that measure the level of TSH and/or the level of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. If a problem is uncovered, he or she may recommend prescription drugs to help manage hormone levels.
In certain more severe cases, patients may need radioactive iodine therapy or surgery. That said, in the vast majority of instances, patients enjoy normal lives with adequate treatment.
Knowledge is power, ladies!