Thyroid Awareness | Get to Know the Gland

According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), more than 12 percent of the United States population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. Although most thyroid diseases are life-long conditions, the ATA advises that they can be managed with medical attention.1

Thyroid Awareness | Get to Know the Gland

This January, observe Thyroid Awareness Month by taking the time to learn more about this powerhouse gland, stay aware of the signs of common thyroid diseases and get informed about how healthcare providers determine tests for thyroid conditions.

About the Thyroid

While your thyroid gland is somewhat small, it plays a crucial role in the metabolism, growth and development of the human body. Shaped like a butterfly, this mighty gland helps to regulate many body functions by steadily releasing thyroid hormones into the bloodstream.2 Thyroid hormones get carried to every tissue and help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles and other organs working as they should.3

The three hormones produced by the thyroid are:2

  • T4 (tetraiodothyronine)
  • T3 (triiodothyronine)
  • Calcitonin

The amount of hormones produced by the thyroid is controlled by a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is made by the pituitary gland which is located nearby at the base of the brain.4

Thyroid Diseases

The term thyroid disease refers to a number of conditions that affect the functioning of the gland. The following are two common diseases to be aware of:

Hypothyroidism

This condition refers to an underactive thyroid– meaning that the gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally.3 According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hypothyroidism symptoms can include:5

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Trouble tolerating cold
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Dry skin or dry, thinning hair
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
  • Fertility problems
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid, signifying a condition in which there is too much thyroid hormone in the body.6 This condition tends to cause body functions to speed up. As such, hyperthyroidism symptoms may include:7

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Increased sweating
  • Heart racing
  • Hand tremors
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Thinning of your skin
  • Fine, brittle hair
  • Muscle weakness; especially in the upper arms and thighs

Since signs of both of these diseases may be common– the best way to confirm if they are indicative of an overactive or underactive thyroid is to visit your healthcare provider to determine if testing is medically necessary for you.

Testing for a Thyroid Disease

Your healthcare provider may request blood tests to evaluate your thyroid function if they suspect you have a thyroid condition. A TSH test is the best way to initially test thyroid function and can serve as an “early warning system” by measuring your TSH levels. T4 and T3 tests may also be ordered to assess respective hormone levels.4

If your healthcare provider orders laboratory testing, Scarlet Health® can help make the process easier. Simply schedule an appointment through our website and a Scarlet® Health Professional will meet you at your home or workplace to collect your specimen and deliver it to BioReference for testing. Learn more about Scarlet here.

If you have recently completed testing and are looking for your test results, please visit our HIPAA-compliant, secure patient portal. You can register here:  https://portalservices.bioreference.com/PatientPortalApp/usersession.html?action=login

Stay in the Know this January

Thyroid Awareness Month offers a great opportunity to stay educated on this important gland, especially since up to 60 percent of those with a thyroid disease are unaware of their condition, according to the ATA.1 Additionally, thyroid problems can run in families.3 Discuss potential hereditary risk with loved ones and when in doubt– visit your healthcare provider to check your neck.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279388/
  3. https://www.thyroid.org/hypothyroidism/
  4. https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-function-tests/
  5. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism
  6. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hyperthyroidism
  7. https://www.thyroid.org/hyperthyroidism/