A human’s thyroid gland is relatively small – just two inches long, however it produces a hormone that influences every cell, tissue and organ in the body. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form or thyroid disorder, according to the American Thyroid Association.
During January’s Thyroid Awareness Month, HSHS St. Elizabeth's wants to provide education about this important part of the body, especially because up to 60% of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition; and the cause(s) of thyroid problems are largely unknown.
The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the lower neck. It produces a hormone that regulates the body’s metabolism, affecting critical body functions such as energy level and heart rate. Undiagnosed thyroid problems may put people at risk for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and obesity.
Most thyroid diseases are lifelong but can be managed with medication and regular provider visits.
The thyroid is a gland people often take for granted because it’s not talked about as much as the heart, liver and brain, for example. But anyone at any age can develop thyroid problems. Even newborns are screened for congenital hypothyroidism, which means the gland isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone.
Women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop a thyroid condition.
Symptoms of a thyroid gland concern may include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Unexplained depression or anxiety
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Muscle weakness
- Changes in vision
If you experience any of these symptoms, talk with your health care provider about getting a blood test to check your thyroid function. It’s also important to schedule annual visits with your provider to maintain good overall health.