For 24/7 care, call us at (315) 781-8448. Hearing/speech disabilities, please call 711.

Articles to Stay Healthy.

How do you know when your thyroid is a problem?

By FLCH Medical Director, Dr. Morgan Paul, Bath Community Health, part of Finger Lakes Community Health which is an independent healthcare organization with health centers in the region.

More than 12% of the U.S. population will experience a thyroid condition at some point in their lives, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA). At the health centers, we see patients with thyroid conditions several times each day.
What does the thyroid do? The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that play a key role in regulating blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, metabolism, and the reaction of the body to other hormones.

Signs of thyroid problems
Often you may have very subtle signs of thyroid disease. Fatigue. Constipation. Weight gain or loss. Hair loss. You might not think much about this or think it is something else, but these are typical signs of a problem with your thyroid. Talking to your provider is the next step to determine whether it is your thyroid or not. There are two main types of thyroid conditions – hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

According to the Mayo Clinic, hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. This condition is also called underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages. Over time, hypothyroidism that is not treated can lead to other health problems, such as high cholesterol and heart problems.
With hypothyroidism, your body tends to become more sluggish. You may also experience unexpected weight gain or loss. It is so common that medical providers like to immediately rule it in or out when a patient presents with these symptoms. A simple blood test can diagnose hypothyroidism. Treatment with thyroid hormone medicine is simple, safe, and effective once we find the right dosage for you.

Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid is when your thyroid gland is producing too much thyroid hormone. It can cause increases in heart rate, palpitations, and abnormal weight loss. Some people get an energy boost, but it tends to still cause an overdrive feeling which can leave you fatigued.

Treatments for thyroid disease
With hypothyroidism or a low-functioning thyroid, we often give patients a medication such as levothyroxine which is identical to the thyroid hormone the body makes. This medication looks and acts just like their thyroid hormone. As far as the body is concerned, it is a substitute for that. We look at your lab work and find the right dose for you. We can usually get people into the normal range relatively quickly with that treatment.
Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, can be treated with other medications that block excessive thyroid function. In some cases, depending on what is causing it, hyperthyroidism may improve without medication or other treatment. Ultimately, radiation treatment or surgery may be necessary to control hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid Cancer
According to the Cleveland Clinic, Thyroid cancer develops in your thyroid gland, a part of your endocrine system. Most thyroid cancers are highly curable. Treatments include surgery (removal of the thyroid), chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, and radioiodine therapy.

Thyroid cancer is about three times more common in women than in men. It is about 40-50% less common in Black people than in any other racial or ethnic group according to the American Cancer Society.
How can you prevent thyroid disease?
The thyroid hormone is one of the few molecules in the body that uses iodine. A lack of iodine in your diet can lead to hypothyroidism. Iodine comes from eating seafood, particularly shellfish. Iodine is also available in iodized salt. This can be found in many grocery stores. Ask your provider if iodized salt can help your thyroid condition.

In summary, if you are feeling a change, particularly in terms of your energy level and fatigue, it is worthwhile to see your provider and get a blood test to make sure your thyroid is operating at a normal level.


You May Also Like…

Feeling your best in 2024

​By Jacob Sprouse, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacist, Finger Lakes Community Health. Being your best, healthy self is different for everyone....