The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped organ that wraps around the trachea in the front of your neck. Despite its small size, this gland plays a big role in the regulation of important bodily functions, including how your body burns calories and how fast your heart beats. When the thyroid gland does not work properly, it can impact the entire body.
January is National Thyroid Awareness Month, so there’s no better time to learn how to identify the symptoms of some of the most serious thyroid issues.
Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by an underactive thyroid. In other words, the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, which causes your metabolism to slow down.
Some of the earliest signs of hypothyroidism are fatigue and weight gain. Other symptoms may start to appear as your metabolism continues to slow down. These symptoms include:
Blood tests performed at annual checkups can be used to diagnose this condition. In the event of a hypothyroidism diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe medication to boost the level of thyroid hormones in your body.
Hyperthyroidism is the exact opposite of hypothyroidism — it’s when an overactive thyroid produces too much of the thyroid hormone.
One of the first signs of hyperthyroidism is unexplained weight loss, but this condition can cause a wide variety of other symptoms as well, including:
Your doctor may treat this condition by prescribing medication that blocks the thyroid from producing new hormones.
A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. In certain parts of the world, this condition is often caused by an iodine deficiency. In the United States, a goiter typically develops as a result of another type of thyroid problem, such as the overproduction or underproduction of the thyroid hormone.
Swelling in the neck is the main symptom of this condition. Large goiters can cause other symptoms, including:
The treatment method your doctor chooses will depend on the cause of this condition. Fortunately, some goiters go away on their own without medical treatment.
A nodule is a lump that forms within the thyroid gland. Some nodules are solid, whereas others are filled with fluid or blood.
Most thyroid nodules are small, so they don’t cause any symptoms. You may not even realize you have these nodules until your doctor discovers them during a routine physical. However, large nodules can cause visible swelling. These nodules can also press against the trachea or esophagus and cause symptoms such as:
A small percentage of nodules are cancerous. When a nodule is cancerous, it may need to be surgically removed. When they aren’t cancerous, your doctor may choose to simply closely monitor your condition.
The thyroid is an essential part of your body, so if you experience any of the listed symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor.