Generally, it is not recognized how prevalent thyroid disease is. It is more common than diabetes or heart disease. There are 30 million Americans who have thyroid disease, and more than half of them exist as undiagnosed cases.
There are 2 types of thyroid disease. One of them is hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone). Women are five times more likely than men to suffer from the disease. Besides sex, aging is a risk factor. The other is hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone). Genetics play a major role in this type of thyroid disease, particularly in the case of Graves’ disease. This condition is also more common in women.
If thyroid disease is not treated it often leads to an elevation in cholesterol levels, infertility and osteoporosis. And, as with most autoimmune diseases, there is a strong link to the other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and anemia.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the throat just below the Adam’s apple. This tiny gland plays a giant role in the functioning of the heart, brain, kidneys, liver and skin. To gain a clear picture as to how the thyroid gland works, think of it as a car engine that produces the energy to get your car to move at a designated speed. When the car doesn’t get enough gas, it doesn’t produce enough energy to move forward. In the same manner, your thyroid needs to produce enough thyroid hormone for your cells to perform their functions at a desired rate. The “gas” needed to produce this thyroid hormone is iodine which is found in seafood, bread, milk and iodized salt.
The reasons why your thyroid is not functioning have a wide range from diet – not enough iodine, to Grave’s disease (your immune system produces abnormal types of antibodies) to your thyroid coming under attack by your body’s own immune system – another autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Some of the symptoms of thyroid disease can be feeling nervous, tired, cold, irritated, anxious, sleeplessness, hot flashes, heart palpitations, sweating, weight loss or weight gain, and finally, the development of a goiter. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often attributed to aging, menopause and depression. The best way to know for sure what these symptoms are and to either rule out or identify them as thyroid-related is through a simple blood test called TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). Also, since thyroid disease tends to run in families, review the medical history of family members.
The treatments for thyroid diseases are simple. In the case of hypothyroidism, your doctor will prescribe a daily pill which is a synthetic thyroid hormone. This will be followed by regular blood tests to make certain that the dosage does or does not need any adjustments. With hyperthyroidism, your physician will prescribe an antithyroid medication and radioactive iodine. In some cases a portion of the thyroid gland needs to be surgically removed. In this case your physician will prescribe thyroid hormone supplements to prevent hypothyroidism.
In all cases, once properly identified, thyroid disease is an easily treated disease.
For more information, call The Kabb Law Firm at 216-921-KABB (9222).