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What You Need to Know About Your Thyroid

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

By Family Features

Michele Adams is quick to say, “I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus,” but it took her being hit by a car for her thyroid disease to finally be diagnosed.

Adams has always been an active person, but for a few years, she had felt tired and had a constant tightness in her throat. She was diagnosed with post-nasal drip but did not feel relief after a year of treatment.

“I thought this exhaustion, hoarse voice and lump in my throat were just my new normal,” Adams said. “I’d accepted it, and I shouldn’t have.”

During this time, Adams went on a bike ride in northeastern New Jersey – something she still does frequently. However, on this day, Adams was struck by a car as she was biking.

The incident resulted in an MRI scan. Adams was not seriously injured, but doctors noticed something unexpected. The scan revealed nodules in her lower neck, which suggested thyroid disease.

“I now realize I had symptoms of a thyroid condition for years,” Adams said. “I’d had it up to here with not feeling like myself. Once I had the MRI results, I knew to seek out a thyroid expert, and I found an endocrinologist.”

What you probably do not know about your thyroid

Thyroid disease is more common than diabetes and heart disease, but more than half of Americans with thyroid disease are unaware, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). This lack of awareness can endanger a person’s health and well-being.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located low in the front of the neck below the Adam’s apple. It produces thyroid hormones that influence almost every cell, tissue and organ in the human body.

Common signs of thyroid diseases include:

  • Unexplained changes in weight
  • Depression, anxiety or feelings of irritability
  • Changes in memory or ability to concentrate
  • Joint or muscle pain or weakness
  • Fatigue or trouble sleeping
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Irregular menstrual periods

Cheryl Rosenfeld, D.O., is a thyroid expert and AACE member. Rosenfeld is also the physician who treated Adams’ thyroid disease.

“If the thyroid does not function correctly, it can affect every possible aspect of a person’s life,” Rosenfeld said. “Remember that thyroid conditions can cause changes in mental health, including depression. I’ve also spoken to patients who’ve experienced an inability to concentrate, which seriously affected their performance at work.”

Several disorders can arise if the thyroid produces too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) or not enough (hypothyroidism).

Other thyroid diseases include:

  • Nodules
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Graves’ disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Thyroid eye disease

Undiagnosed thyroid issues can also place a person at increased risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, infertility and other serious conditions.

What to do if you are ‘up to here’ with not feeling like yourself

“Once I was placed on treatment for Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, my life changed completely,” Adams said. “My throat is no longer sore, and I’m able to go out with my family or spend time at the gym without feeling completely drained of energy.”

The first step to ensure your thyroid gland functions properly is to speak with a health care provider about your symptoms and whether a thyroid test is needed.

An endocrinologist is a specially trained doctor who is qualified to diagnose and treat hormone-related diseases and conditions, including thyroid cancer and all other diseases related to the thyroid gland.

For more information, visit thyroidawareness.com.

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