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.
Occurring at any age, but most often found in middle-age women, Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) in the United States. It is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack and slowly destroy the thyroid gland. Patients with Hashimoto's often have a family history of thyroid disorders, and a blood test can reveal the presence of thyroid antibodies.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease
Mild cases of this disease sometimes have no symptoms, and it can remain stable for years. It is slow progressing, usually detected at an early stage and responds well to replacement with thyroid hormone.
- Mild weight gain
- Dry skin and/or hair
- Heavy and irregular menstruation
- Intolerance to cold
- Enlarged thyroid
"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."