Could a Thyroid Problem be Responsible?
The symptoms of a thyroid problem usually begin slowly and can be easily ignored or confused with something else. According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and up to 60% don't know they have it.
"The thyroid is a small gland located at the base of the neck and below your Adam's apple," explained Endocrinologist Ashley Therasse, M.D. "The thyroid produces hormones that regulate your body's metabolism, and when it is not functioning properly can lead to serious health problems.
Dr. Therasse said when the thyroid produces too much (hyperthyroidism) or not enough (hypothyroidism) hormone, several problems can occur. Because thyroid hormones are used throughout the body, thyroid dysfunction can affect your weight and body temperature and can lead to disorders of the heart and skeletal system.
Although it can be overlooked, thyroid dysfunction is often easily treated according to Dr. Therasse. She explains the four most common thyroid disorders and their symptoms.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), Graves' is an autoimmune disease that results in excessive amounts ofthyroid hormone. Graves' disease can be hereditary and may occur in men and women but is most often seen in women between ages 20-50.
Symptoms of Graves' Disease
Because the symptoms of Graves' disease are not specific, they can be mistaken for other conditions. The first line of treatment is using a combination of medications. Surgery to remove the gland or the administration of radioactive iodine are options in some patients.
• Increased or irregular heartbeat
• Excessive sweating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Altered menstrual cycle
• Enlarged thyroid
• Certain eye conditions
"Because thyroid disease presents in such a vague manner, people can be tempted to overlook their symptoms," Dr. Therasse said. "I encourage anyone who is concerned to talk with their doctor. A simple blood test can reveal a great deal."