The signs of a thyroid problem can be subtle.
Many people don't realize that feeling stressed, overworked, not eating right, early onset menopause, signs of aging, or such mental illnesses as major depression, general anxiety or bipolar disorder may be signs of abnormal thyroid function.
What is a thyroid?
The thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, releases hormones into your body that control metabolism – speeding it up or slowing it down, depending on their levels.
When at optimal levels, thyroid hormones keep the body in balance. When they’re off, they can throw everything else off, too.
“Thyroid hormones affect every system in your body,” Dr. Nuzhat Chalisa, a board-certified endocrinologist with Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers, said in a news release from the hospital. “It’s very important to keep thyroid levels normal.”
The most common thyroid disorders
Chalisa said the most common thyroid disorder is hypothyroidism, which is an under-functioning thyroid gland.
Affecting nearly 1 in 20 Americans over the age of 11, hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, depression, fatigue, sluggishness, sensitivity to cold, memory problems, mental “fogginess,” constipation, a slow heart rate, dry skin, hair loss and heavy or irregular menstrual periods.
When the thyroid produces too much hormone – hyperthyroidism – symptoms can include a racing heart, heart palpitations, irritability, anxiety, trouble sleeping, weight loss, muscle weakness, irregular menstrual periods, thin skin, brittle hair and nails and increased sweating.
The symptoms are bad enough, Chalisa said, but not getting treatment can be worse, leading to abnormal heart rhythms and heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, bone fractures and more.
Pregnant women who have untreated thyroid problems can have premature births or stillbirths, and their babies can be born with congenital malformations or cognitive impairments.
“The fetus doesn’t make its own thyroid hormones,” Chalisa said in the news, “so it’s very important to make sure those levels are good during pregnancy.”
Diagnosis of hypo- and hyperthyroidism is a simple blood test, and treatment of either is often medication. Radioactive iodine treatment or surgery may be needed to treat hyperthyroidism.
“I advise people to get screenings of their thyroid levels once a year,” Chalisa said in the news release, “especially if they have a family history of thyroid disease.”
Morris Hospital offers a $125 general health screening through its Wellness Wednesday health screenings program. This simple blood test is often ordered by a doctor as part of an annual physical.
Information on thyroid stimulating hormone are among the results this test provides.
For information, call 815-416-6089 or visit www.morrishospital.org/wellnesswednesdays.
Chalisa sees patients at the Channahon Healthcare Center of Morris Hospital, 25259 Reed St., Channahon.
For information, call 815-467-0555 or www.morrishospital.org/endocrinology.