VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Thyroid Disease Awareness
The thyroid gland quietly does its job behind the scenes without you even noticing. In fact, when it begins to act up, you may not even consider it as a source for your recurring trouble—whether it’s lack of sleep, drastic shifts in mood, or digestive problems.
Since the hormones that the thyroid releases are such an integral part of regulating your metabolism, a malfunction (by being overactive or underactive) can cause problems with seemingly unrelated aspects of your health.
What’s the thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck just above the collarbone. The thyroid gland produces and emits different hormones, which regulate a number of body functions.
Too much of the hormones from the thyroid in your blood (hyperthyroidism) speeds you up; too little (hypothyroidism) slows you down.
Thyroid disease typically involves changes in the function or structure of the thyroid gland. Changes in the structure can include an enlarged thyroid gland, a small thyroid gland, or lump(s) in the gland.
When your thyroid makes more thyroid hormones than your body needs, this is called hyperthyroidism.
When your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormone, this is called hypothyroidism.
Issues with thyroid gland function can prompt numerous health problems. Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid may be associated with:
– Unexplained sweating
– Menstrual issues
– Vision and muscle weakness
Hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid may be associated with:
– Weight gain
– Menstrual irregularities
– Feeling cold
– Having dry skin and hair
Check it out
Often these symptoms are related to conditions other than thyroid disease. Nonetheless, if you have any of these symptoms you should talk to your health care provider.
Blood tests to measure thyroid hormone and thyroid stimulating hormone are the primary ways of testing how well your thyroid is working. This will help your health care provider with your diagnosis.
When measurements of these hormones fall outside their normal ranges, it indicates whether the thyroid gland is overactive or underactive. Your health care provider will work with you on the best options for your care.