In honor of Thyroid Awareness Month, we’re shedding some light on this gland that is so important to your health.
The thyroid is a part of the endocrine system, which consists of glands that produce, store and release hormones into your bloodstream. Located just below your Adam’s apple, the thyroid releases hormones that control your metabolism, and it regulates many of your important body functions, such as breathing, heart rate, body weight, body temperature and more.
While thyroid disorders can range from a small, harmless goiter (or enlarged gland) to cancer, the most common thyroid problems involve the production of too much or too little thyroid hormones.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid becomes overactive and produces too much of its hormones. This can result in symptoms such as sweating, a rapid heartbeat, weight loss, nervousness and sleeping difficulties. If left untreated, it could lead to serious heart problems (e.g., atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure), weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis) and eye problems (e.g., bulging, red or swollen eyes).
On the contrary, hypothyroidism is when your thyroid is underactive, producing too little of its hormone. This leads to lower energy levels, causing you to feel weak, tired and gain weight. If left untreated, for adults, it can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Thyroid disorders have many different causes, including autoimmune disorders such as Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but fortunately, both disorders are easily treatable with medications.
Because many symptoms of thyroid problems can be mistaken for other issues or something that will simply go away over time, it is important to have your thyroid levels checked regularly. If a problem exists, then you should see an endocrinologist for the next steps.