Thyroid disorders range from a small, harmless enlarged gland (goiter) to cancer, although cancer is quite rare. The most common involve abnormal production of thyroid hormones, or hyperthyroidism. Insufficient hormone production is hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland hormones influence almost all of the metabolic processes in your body, controlling the way your body breaks down food, and either uses that energy immediately or stores it for the future. They regulate your body’s metabolism by telling organs how fast or slowly they should work. Thyroid hormones also affect your heart, muscles, bones, and cholesterol.
Symptoms of thyroid disease
Symptoms of a thyroid problem include too much energy or, alternatively, depression, fatigue, and weight gain.
- Feeling nervous, moody, weak, or tired
- Your hands may shake, your heart may beat fast, or you may have problems breathing
- You may be sweaty or have warm, red, itchy skin
- You may have more bowel movements than usual
- You may have fine, soft hair that is falling out
- You may feel tired, weak, and/or depressed
- You may have dry skin and brittle nails
- You may have difficulty standing cold temperatures
- You may have constipation
- You may have memory problems or trouble thinking clearly
- You may have heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- You may lose weight even though you eat the same or more than usual
You might mistake symptoms for normal aging, but call the doctor if your symptoms get worse or don’t go away.
Hyperthyroidism affects women much more often than men, most commonly before the age of 40. Symptoms reflect overactivity of the body’s organs, including sweating, feeling hot, rapid heartbeat, weight loss, and sometimes eye problems. Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, triggers release of excess hormones.
Hypothryoidism results from an underproduction of thyroid hormones. This leads to lower energy levels, causing you to feel weak and tired. Older women particularly are more likely to develop hypothyroidism. Untreated, hypothyroidism can raise cholesterol levels and make you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. It can harm your unborn baby if untreated.
Treating thyroid disorders
Hyperthyroidism is easily treated with beta-blockers. Radioactive iodine and anti-thyroid medicine are used most often. After treatment, you will need regular blood tests to make sure you are making enough thyroid hormone.
Hypothyroidism is usually treated with thyroid hormone pills. Thyroid hormone medication should give you:
- Improved energy level
- Gradual weight loss
- Improved mood and mental function
- Improved pumping of the heart and improved digestive tract function
- Reduction in the size of an enlarged thyroid gland
If you have unresolved menopausal-like symptoms, but are being treated with estrogen, you may be suffering from an undiagnosed thyroid disease. If menopause symptoms persist, ask the doctor for a thyroid test. Treatment is easily achieved with thyroid replacement therapy.