Your thyroid is a gland that sits at the base of your neck just above your collarbone. Most people can feel it with their fingers when they swallow. It produces hormones that are used in various ways throughout your body, including for metabolism. But when something goes wrong, it can really mess with your body.
"It's a glad that we can think of, kind of, as the body's accelerator. If it's over active it speeds things up, and if it's under active it slows things down," said Dr. Steve Joyce. And those are the most common problems with the thyroid gland. It can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Overactive means it's producing too many hormones. Underactive means not enough. Underactive is far more common, but either way thyroid issues can really mess with your body. "You can have a multitude of symptoms, and unfortunately none of them are very specific," said Dr. Joyce. Those symptoms include fatigue, skin changes, hair changes, weight gain or loss, gastrointestinal disorders and changes in a woman's menstrual cycle.
While thyroid problems are possible in both genders, they are more common in women, especially those over 40. Dr. Joyce says that's possibly because women tend to be more susceptible to auto-immune diseases like thyroid problems. "Some how the female immune system seems to act upon itself more than what the male genders does. And why that occurs, nobody really knows," said Dr. Joyce. Another thyroid concern? Cancer. But pin-pointing that problem can be a little more challenging. "It can be difficult to diagnose, because that in and of itself doesn't really have that many symptoms. It's a little bit different than under active and over active thyroid symptoms that we typically see, so it can be difficult," said Dr. Joyce.
The good news: treating thyroid issues is fairly easy, even if it's cancer. Dr. Joyce says treatment for each disease is different. Underactive thyroid can be treated with medication, while overactive and thyroid cancer may require a little more in terms of treatment.
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