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Examiner
  • Thyroid conditions often go undetected

  • The thyroid may be one of the most overlooked parts of the human body. It is a small gland, usually weighing a little over an ounce, located at the front of the neck just about where a bow tie would rest. As small as they are, our thyroids have a very big job to do; they control metabolism, energy and keep our bodies functioning.

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  • The thyroid may be one of the most overlooked parts of the human body. It is a small gland, usually weighing a little over an ounce, located at the front of the neck just about where a bow tie would rest. As small as they are, our thyroids have a very big job to do; they control metabolism, energy and keep our bodies functioning.
    It’s estimated that 59 million Americans have a thyroid problem but many of them don’t know it. The American Thyroid Association recommends testing adults, especially women, starting at age 35 and then every five years.
    If you have a thyroid disease, your body uses energy more slowly or quickly than it should. Undiagnosed thyroid problems can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety and many other health problems.
    The most common problems developing in the thyroid include:
    Hypothyroidism – an under active thyroid
    Hyperthyroidism – an over active thyroid
    Goiter – an enlarged thyroid
    Thyroid nodules – lumps in the thyroid gland
    Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid problem. Having hypothyroidism will make you gain weight and feel tired and sluggish.
    You will also have a difficult time dealing with cold temperatures; women may have irregular menstrual cycles.
    Hyperthyroidism means your body is making more thyroid hormones than you need. It can cause weight loss, an elevated heart rate and can make you more sensitive to heat.
    Goiter is the visible enlargement of the thyroid gland. It could be the whole gland, or due to one or more nodules in the gland, or a combination of both. It can cause the compression of the trachea and esophagus, making it difficult to swallow. The incidence of goiter in the U.S. has declined significantly because iodine is now added to table salt, but goiter can by caused by other thyroid diseases as well.
    Thyroid nodules are small lumps or cysts that develop on the thyroid. It may be caused by abnormal growth of cells in one or more areas of the gland. They are often noticed by feeling or can be discovered when the neck is being evaluated for some other reason. Nodules are very common and are most often benign but further evaluation is recommended as cancer can occur without having symptoms. The cure rate for the most common type of thyroid cancer is very high.
    How do you know if your thyroid is working properly? Specific blood tests for hormone levels can determine if the thyroid is working as it should. But sometimes levels that appear normal are not.
    If you are being treated for a thyroid disorder but still don’t feel well, an endocrinologist can provide further assessment and a second opinion.
    Endocrinologists are specialists of the endocrine system—the thyroid is part of that system. They are likely more familiar with the complex issues of the thyroid.
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