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Fargo VA Health Care System

 

Do you know where your thyroid is? You should!

Nurse using instruments, simulating checking the thyroid on a Mannequin patient

An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disorder. Unfortunately, up to 60 percent of those with thyroid problems are unaware of their condition. This is why it's so important to be tested if you're having symptoms or are at risk because of your age

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

This butterfly-shaped gland, located in the front of your neck, plays a key role in your health. The thyroid is a gland that releases hormones that help regulate your metabolism and help keep your brain, heart, and other organs working as they should. Usually, the thyroid does its job quietly and efficiently. Sometimes, however, the thyroid can get out of balance-either becoming overactive or underactive.

An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disorder. Unfortunately, up to 60 percent of those with thyroid problems are unaware of their condition. This is why it's so important to be tested if you're having symptoms or are at risk because of your age. In fact, the American Thyroid Association recommends that adults, particularly women, have a blood test to detect thyroid problems every 5 years starting at age 35.

The symptoms of thyroid disorders vary considerably depending on if the thyroid is underactive or overactive.

Some of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) are:

• Fatigue
• Weight gain
• Puffy face
• Cold intolerance
• Joint and muscle pain
• Constipation
• Dry, thinning hair
• Decreased sweating
• Heavy or irregular menstrual periods and impaired fertility
• Depression
• Slowed heart rate

Some of the symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) are:

• Nervousness or irritability
• Fatigue or muscle weakness
• Trouble sleeping
• Heat intolerance
• Hand tremors
• Rapid and irregular heartbeat
• Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
• Weight loss
• Mood swings
• Goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid that may cause your neck to look swollen

Take Action and Raise Awareness!

You may only have some of the symptoms above, nevertheless, if you think you may be experiencing thyroid problems, consult with your physician to discuss what your next steps should be.

For more information about thyroid diseases, check out this site on MedlinePlus.

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