You may not think that thyroid disease is something you need to worry about. After all, how many people do you know who have a problem with their thyroid?
But the reality is that it is far more common than most people realize. And unfortunately, the problem usually goes undiagnosed for years, until the symptoms become severe enough to interfere with everyday life.
That’s why it’s important to know if your doctor if they can diagnose and treat any potential issues before they get worse. Keep reading to learn more.
What is a thyroid disorder?
A thyroid disorder is when something goes wrong with your thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped organ that sits just below your Adam’s apple in your throat. The thyroid gland produces hormones that control your metabolism, temperature, weight, and even emotional health. A thyroid disorder can cause problems with any of these.
There are many different types of thyroid disorders. They can range from being barely noticeable to causing serious problems with your health if they’re not treated.
A thyroid disorder can be caused by a range of factors, including an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland), a noncancerous growth in the thyroid gland, abnormalities in the pituitary gland or hypothalamus glands (which control the thyroid gland), a genetic disorder which causes overactive or underactive thyroid, and other factors.
How common are thyroid disorders?
Most people have an occasional complaint about their thyroid gland, but it is a very infrequent diagnosis, especially for older people. Most thyroid diseases are found in people younger than 30 years old. For example, about 3% of people in their 30s have an underactive thyroid.
A common misconception is that thyroid disorders only affect middle-aged women, but thyroid disorders are actually more common in males than females, particularly in young people.
In fact, thyroid disorders are the most common cause of swelling in the neck, which is known as a goiter. Many people who have a goiter never even realize what it is because it is so common.
What are the symptoms of a thyroid disorder?
- Weight gain – As your metabolism slows down, you will gain weight and find it difficult to lose the pounds.
- Hair loss or hair thinning – A healthy thyroid is needed for hair growth, so hair loss can be a sign of a thyroid disorder.
- Dry skin – Thyroid hormone affects the way your skin cells are produced, so you may have dry skin, especially on your hands and feet, as a result of low thyroid hormone levels.
- Feeling cold – A low temperature is often associated with a thyroid disorder.
- Being tired or fatigued – The thyroid gland helps control your energy levels and people with a thyroid disorder often feel extremely tired.
- Mood swings – A thyroid disorder can also cause mood swings, including irritability and anxiety.
- Changes in your menstrual cycle – Some thyroid disorders cause irregular menstruation cycles.
- Trouble concentrating – A low thyroid hormone level can also cause difficulties concentrating.
- Weight gain – If your thyroid gland is overactive, you can experience weight gain, as your body will be burning calories much more quickly than normal.
How is a thyroid disorder diagnosed?
During your annual check-up, your doctor will look for the symptoms of a thyroid disorder and may test your thyroid function to rule out a thyroid problem. However, these tests are not always accurate, and thyroid problems are often underdiagnosed.
If your doctor suspects you have a thyroid disorder, they will probably order further tests to make a diagnosis. The most common test for a thyroid disorder is the thyroid function test, which checks your thyroid hormone
There are many different ways to test your thyroid function, but the most common is the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test. This test measures the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone in your body.
To understand the results of this test, you will need to know how much your TSH levels should be. This depends on your age, sex, and other health conditions.
TSH Levels and Synthroid
TSH Levels and Synthroid The TSH test uses TSH levels to diagnose thyroid disorders. The normal TSH level is between 0.5 and 5 mIU/L.
A TSH level above 10 mIU/L is usually indicative of an underactive thyroid gland and a TSH level below 0.5 mIU/L indicates an overactive thyroid gland.
A TSH test can also be used to monitor whether your treatment for a thyroid disorder is working. If the TSH level drops when you start taking medication for an underactive thyroid, this confirms that the treatment is working. If the TSH level does not decrease when you start treatment for an overactive thyroid gland, this means the medication is not working and you should change treatment.
Other ways to treat a thyroid disorder
If your TSH levels are above 10 mIU/L and you are experiencing symptoms of an underactive thyroid, your doctor will probably prescribe treatment with synthetic thyroid hormone (known as “synthroid”). If your TSH levels are below 0.5 mIU/L and you are experiencing symptoms of an overactive thyroid, your doctor will probably prescribe treatment with a drug called beta-blocker.
If your thyroid disorder is caused by a noncancerous growth in the thyroid gland (goiter), your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your goiter. If your thyroid disorder is caused by thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland), your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or other drugs to treat your thyroiditis. If your thyroid disorder is caused by abnormalities in the pituitary gland or hypothalamus glands, your doctor will probably refer you to a specialist.
All too often, thyroid disorders go undiagnosed for years, until the symptoms become severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Because of this, it is important to know if your doctor can diagnose and treat any potential issues before they get worse.
With that in mind, it’s important to know what a thyroid disorder is, what the signs are, and how doctors diagnose the problem. Most importantly, it’s important to know that a thyroid disorder can be treated and managed, so that you can live your life pain-free.