January is thyroid awareness month. According to the American Thyroid Association, “More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.” Thyroid problems affect both men and women but are more prevalent among women. If you’ve never had problems with your thyroid, you may be wondering what a thyroid is and why you need one.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in front of your neck under your voice box. It makes hormones that control your metabolism. Because of its function, the thyroid helps your body use energy and keeps your muscles and organs working properly. Problems arise when your thyroid is either overactive or underactive and is unable to produce the correct amount of hormones.
When your thyroid creates too many hormones, it is called hyperthyroidism. This condition causes your body’s systems to speed up. Hyperthyroidism may include symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, irritability, increased sweating, difficulty sleeping, vision problems, weight loss, frequent bowel movements, and muscle weakness.
On the other hand, when your thyroid doesn’t create enough hormones, it is called hypothyroidism. With hypothyroidism, your body’s systems slow down and you start to feel more sluggish. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include decreased tolerance to cold temperatures, tiredness, forgetfulness, weight gain, dry skin, constipation, and depression.
While the symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism do not guarantee that you have a thyroid disorder, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor to help manage any symptoms that you may have.
For more information, visit the American Thyroid Association website at https://www.thyroid.org.
By Alena Walrath, PTA