The thyroid gland may be shaped like a gooey pink butterfly, but waving off symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid can lead to long-term health problems and reduce one’s quality of life.
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According to the American College of Endocrinology (ACE), some 30 million Americans have thyroid disorders, yet more than half remain undiagnosed and untreated. Thyroid disease is far more common than diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer and, in fact, more Americans suffer from thyroid disease than all types of cancers combined.
Located at the base of the neck just below the adam’s apple, the thyroid has a major role in the proper functioning of the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys. Thyroid problems begin when the gland produces either too many or too few hormones. Some babies are born with a thyroid deficiency. More often, however, thyroid problems are triggered as a result of radiation exposure, when nodules develop on the gland, after a loss of thyroid tissue due to surgery, because the pituitary gland malfunctions, or when the body produces antibodies in response to other diseases such as diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic hepatitis, or Sjogren’s syndrome.
Often people don’t know they have a thyroid problem unless they develop an obvious sign such a goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland, or if the symptoms become severe enough.
According to Dr. Jaiwant Rangi, who is the medical director of Capitol Endocrinology in Cameron Park, an underactive thyroid is more common than an overactive one. Common symptoms of an underactive thyroid include weight gain, fatigue, feeling cold all the time, and constipation.
Symptoms of those with an overactive thyroid are anxiety, weight loss, heat intolerance, diarrhea, and tremors. An overactive thyroid can also produce vision problems, such as seeing double or protruding eyes.
Rangi, who is board certified in diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolism, said women are five times more likely than men to have thyroid problems and pregnant women are particularly susceptible because of hormonal changes. Rangi recommends that all pregnant women be tested during the first trimester of pregnancy as well as periodically during the pregnancy. She also recommends that everyone over the age of 45 get a thyroid exam and blood test.
The good news is that once a thyroid condition is diagnosed, it can be successfully treated. Even those who have their thyroid removed can function normally as long as they take their medication. For additional information or an exam, people can visit ThyroidAwareness.com or contact Dr. Ranji at 530-677-0700.