When it’s not working right, nothing is. Choose to know your thyroid levels.
Proper functioning of your thyroid is vital to your overall well-being.
Facts about the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck. Although relatively small, the thyroid gland plays a huge role in our body, influencing the function of many of the body’s most important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. Ensuring that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly is vitally important to the body’s overall well-being.
The Role it Plays in Your Life
Hormones produced by the thyroid gland influence virtually every cell, tissue and organ in the body and are responsible for:3
- Helping to control your body temperature
- Increasing heart rate and stimulating heart muscle contraction
- Proper brain function
- Managing body energy expenditure, heat generation, and weight
- Regulating the digestive tract functions
Hyperthyroidism develops when the body is exposed to excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. This disorder occurs in almost one percent of all Americans and affects women five to 10 times more often than men. In its mildest form, hyperthyroidism may not cause recognizable symptoms. More often, however, the symptoms are discomforting, disabling or even life-threatening.5
Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism4
When hyperthyroidism develops, a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid) is usually present and may be associated with some or many of the following features:
- Fast heart rate, often more than 100 beats per minute
- Becoming anxious, irritable, argumentative
- Trembling hands
- Weight loss, despite eating the same amount or even more than usual
- Intolerance of warm temperatures and increased likelihood to perspire
- Loss of scalp hair
- Tendency of fingernails to separate from the nail bed
- Muscle weakness, especially of the upper arms and thighs
- Loose and frequent bowel movements
- Smooth skin
- Change in menstrual pattern
- Increased likelihood for miscarriage
- Prominent “stare” of the eyes
- Protrusion of the eyes, with or without double vision (in patients with Graves’ disease)
- Irregular heart rhythm, especially in patients older than 60 years of age
- Accelerated loss of calcium from bones, which increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures
What is Hypothyroidism?
An underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, occurs when the thyroid gland produces less than the normal amount of thyroid hormone. The result is the “slowing down” of many bodily functions. Although hypothyroidism may be temporary, it usually is a permanent condition. Of the nearly 30 million people estimated to be suffering from thyroid dysfunction, most have hypothyroidism.1
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism1
In its earliest stage, hypothyroidism may cause few symptoms, since the body has the ability to partially compensate for a failing thyroid gland by increasing the stimulation to it, much like pressing down on the accelerator when climbing a hill to keep the car going the same speed. As thyroid hormone production decreases and the body’s metabolism slows, a variety of features may result.
- Pervasive fatigue
- Difficulty with learning
- Dry, brittle hair and nails
- Dry, itchy skin
- Puffy face
- Sore muscles
- Weight gain and fluid retention
- Heavy and/or irregular menstrual flow
- Increased frequency of miscarriages
- Increased sensitivity to many medications
Prevalence and Impact of Thyroid Disease
- An estimated 30 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.1This is equal to approximately 1 in 16.
- More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.3,4
- More than half of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.2
- Women are five to ten times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.2
- Most thyroid cancers respond to treatment, although a small percentage can be very aggressive. The causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown.1
- Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for certain serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility.1
- Pregnant women with undiagnosed or inadequately treated hypothyroidism have an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and severe developmental problems in their children.2
- Most thyroid diseases are life-long conditions that can be managed with medical attention.1
Check your thyroid function with QuestDirect™
Through QuestDirect, you can have a thyroid-stimulating hormone test (TSH) to detect problems with the thyroid gland.
Important: Always discuss QuestDirect testing results with your healthcare provider, who can use them to examine your numbers to properly interpret your thyroid function.
Diagnostic Laboratory of Oklahoma (DLO) strives to empower patients to take a more active role in their healthcare decisions through providing education on disease states and available diagnostic testing, as well as resources for additional information from medical organizations.