January is “Thyroid Awareness Month,” and it’s important to know the various health problems connected to the thyroid. Many don’t understand the importance of the gland or that we may have symptoms of this disease. So what better time than now to discuss the few types of thyroid disease and symptoms, as well as the importance of diagnosis and treatment.

What Is The Thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland in the neck in charge of your metabolism and creating new proteins. The gland is part of the endocrine system, which directly affects almost every single organ. It is responsible for regulating skin integrity, menstrual cycles, calcium levels, and the nervous system, heart and cholesterol levels. In addition, it controls brain development, your body temperature, respiration, metabolism and fat production. So in other words, it's an important part of your body and you need to learn more about it!

Types Of Thyroid Disease

Four common disorders of the thyroid are Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Graves' disease, goiter, and thyroid nodules

Hashimoto’s disease is also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. It’s the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States, affecting about 14 million Americans. The disease occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and slowly destroys the thyroid gland and its ability to produce hormones.

Symptoms include:

  • – fatigue
  • – depression
  • – constipation
  • – mild weight gain
  • – dry skin
  • – dry, thinning hair
  • – pale, puffy face
  • – heavy and irregular menstruation
  • – intolerance to cold
  • – enlarged thyroid, or goiter

Testing the level of TSH is often the first step when screening for any type of thyroid disorder. A lot of doctors choose to order a blood test to check for increased levels of TSH. Since thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder the blood test would show abnormal antibodies that might attack the thyroid. There’s no known cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. 

Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. This can cause the gland to overproduce the hormone responsible for regulating metabolism. The disease is hereditary and may develop at any age in men or women, but it’s much more common in women ages 20 to 30. 

Symptoms include:

  • – anxiety 
  • – irritability 
  • – fatigue 
  • – hand tremors 
  • – increased or irregular heartbeat
  • – excessive sweating 
  • – difficulty sleeping 
  • – diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
  • – altered menstrual cycle
  • – goiter
  • – bulging eyes and vision problems

To diagnosis graves disease your doctor will do a simple physical exam signs of increased metabolism, including rapid pulse and high blood pressure as well as enlarged bulging eyes. 

Blood tests will also be checked for high levels of T4 and low levels of TSH. There’s no treatment to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid gland and causing it to overproduce hormones. However, the symptoms of Graves’ disease can be controlled in several ways, often with a combination of treatments. 

Thyroid Nodules are growths that form on or in the thyroid gland. Can you believe about 50 percent of people will have nodules that are too tiny to feel? The nodules can be solid or fluid-filled. No need to panic, most are benign, however they can also be cancerous in a small percentage of cases. Nodules are more common in women than men, and the risk in both sexes increases with age.

Symptoms include:

  • – swelling in your neck 
  • – high pulse rate
  • – nervousness 
  • – increased appetite 
  • – tremors 
  • – clammy skin
  • – weight loss
  • – pain
  • – breathing and swallowing difficulties

Most nodules are detected during a normal physical exam. They can also be detected during an ultrasound, CT scan, or an MRI. Benign thyroid nodules aren’t life-threatening and usually don’t need treatment but cancerous nodules will vary depending on the type of tumor. 

In most cases, you can’t prevent hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism but you can continue to educate yourself and loved ones and notify your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.