Get to Know the Thyroid

January 2019

A Letter from the Director of Nursing

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, set aside to promote the prevention, treatment and cure of thyroid-related diseases and thyroid cancer. If you’re not really familiar with the thyroid, here’s a brief rundown on this small but mighty gland.

What is the thyroid and what does it do?

The thyroid gland is located at the middle of the lower neck. It produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism and affects several important functions, such as heart rate and energy level. In fact, this little butterfly-shaped gland has an impact on every cell, tissue and organ in the body.

When is something wrong?

According to the American Thyroid Association, about 12 percent of people in the United States will develop a thyroid condition at some point in their lives. About 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition. Women tend to develop thyroid disorders more than men. Most thyroid conditions are lifelong but can be managed medically.

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. The symptoms can include fatigue, forgetfulness, depression and weight gain.

Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand is a condition in which too much thyroid hormone is produced. This can result in irritability, nervousness, sleep disturbance, vision problems, eye irritation and unexplained weight loss.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder and a form of hyperthyroidism.

Most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with treatment.

What are the symptoms?

Thyroid cancer in its early stages doesn’t exhibit symptoms. Later, a lump may develop on the throat, and other signs include hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and pain in the throat and neck.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include an irregular or unusual heartbeat, tremors, sweating, increased appetite, difficulty sleeping, brittle hair and unintentional weight loss. Hypothyroidism’s symptoms include dry skin, weight gain, muscle weakness, hoarseness, more sensitivity to cold, a slowed heart rate, depression and muscle weakness.

If you notice these symptoms, contact your doctor.

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