Did you know that there is something in your body that has the shape of a butterfly that is responsible for producing hormones that play a crucial role in many of the body’s systems? It is in charge of systems from cells and tissues, to organs like the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys. It is called the thyroid gland and it is found in your neck. Dysfunction occurs when the thyroid produces either too much or too little thyroid hormone. Either can disrupt healthy functioning of vital organs – leading to a wide range of symptoms. The good news is that once it is diagnosed and treated, it is possible to live a normal, healthy life. Since this gland controls so much and can affect many areas of the body, the month of January has been dedicated to bring awareness to thyroid diseases.
5 Reasons to Check Your Thyroid
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at base of the neck that produces thyroid hormones; these influence how all other cells, tissues, and organs function.
- Thyroid dysfunction can have hundreds of possible symptoms
Symptoms vary widely and diagnosis can be difficult, so keeping detailed records will be a significant help to your doctor. The thyroid affects metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. During infancy and childhood, adequate thyroid hormone is crucial for brain development.
- It affects millions in the U.S. alone
It’s estimated that over 30 million Americans have thyroid dysfunction, yet at least half of these cases are undiagnosed and, consequently, untreated.
- Anyone can be affected by thyroid dysfunction
Although women are five times more likely to develop thyroid problems than men, it can happen to anyone.
- Diagnosis is the key
Good news: With a proper diagnosis, thyroid dysfunction can be successfully treated so you can enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
Ready to check your thyroid? Here’s a video on how to do it if you are suspicious that it is not normal.
Why Thyroid Awareness Month is Important
- It emphasizes the vital purpose of the thyroid
The thyroid can seem a bit mysterious, but in reality, it’s simply a small endocrine gland at the base of the neck. However, the thyroid produces hormones important to the healthy functioning of major organs, as well as virtually every cell of the body. When it’s producing either too much or too little of these hormones, other body systems can get out of balance, leading to problems ranging from dry skin to decreased vision.
- It encourages us to get tested
Diagnoses can be accomplished with simple blood tests. There are literally hundreds of possible symptoms, but the most common are cold hands and feet, dry skin, and unexplained weight gain. All of these can indicate hypothyroidism (not enough hormone being produced). Conversely, diarrhea and unexplained weight loss can be a sign of hyperthyroidism (too much hormone). If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, this is the perfect time to ask your doctor if you should be tested.
- It promotes early treatment
Even if we have no symptoms, we should know the possible signs of trouble, so that we can seek medical advice sooner rather than later. And if you are diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction, getting treatment now means a much greater likelihood of living a healthy life.
The Freeman/Lozier Library offers several resources if you want to know more about the thyroid.