If you have an over- or under-active thyroid, you know the struggle of finding balance. As you may know, thyroid dysfunction, also known as thyroid disease, is the condition that impacts the thyroid gland. The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped organ that rests in the front of the neck and produces thyroid hormones, which impact multiple parts of your body. Thyroid conditions can be a range of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Often times thyroid problems show up as a swelling of the neck.
The thyroid gland regulates several activities within the body including how fast the body burns calories and how fast the heart beats. Depending on how much of the thyroid hormone it produces, you may feel restless or tired, or you may experience weight gain or loss. Typically, women are far more likely to have thyroid conditions than men, and the likelihood goes up after pregnancy and menopause.
With hypothyroidism, your body does not produce enough thyroid hormones. It is also known as an underactive thyroid. When the thyroid makes too little of its assigned hormone, your body’s functions will slow down, especially your metabolism.
In the United States, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease. If someone is diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, their immune system attacks their thyroid, which damages it and causes it to not produce enough hormones.
One of the most frustrating things about hypothyroidism is the fact that its symptoms develop slowly over a period of several years. In the beginning, you may feel tired and drained. After a while, you may see other signs of a slow metabolism, such as muscle weakness, weight gain, joint or muscle pain, dry and thinning hair, feelings of sadness or depression, and feeling cold when others do not. Because it shows up so slowly, it’s not always diagnosed right away.
The good news is that hypothyroidism can be treated. Your physician will subscribe the proper medicine that will give your body the amount of the thyroid hormone it needs to function normally. The most commonly prescribed medicines are those that contain man-made forms of the thyroid hormone. There are also thyroid hormone preparations that come from natural sources (e.g. porcine-derived preparations). One of the most important things you can do is to ensure you’re receiving the proper amount of nutrients that are required to keep your thyroid functioning properly. This often involves the use of a thyroid supplement. You will unlikely get this from a traditionally trained physician, but will probably need to seek care from a functional medicine doctor.
As the opposite of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid is a little too happy and makes too much of the thyroid hormone. This will speed up your body’s functions including your metabolism and heart rate. A common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, which impacts the immune system.
Much like hypothyroidism, you may not recognize the symptoms of hyperthyroidism at first. Symptoms start slowly and pick up over time. You’ll likely notice the following things: weight loss, constant hunger, rapid heartbeat, trouble sleeping, muscle weakness, more bowel movements than usual, diarrhea, increased sweating, and feeling hot when others don’t.
With hyperthyroidism, you can choose from several treatment methods such as medication, beta blockers, surgery, and more. Typically, your doctor will start you on a medication before suggesting surgery or a radioiodine procedure, which kills the cells that produce the thyroid hormone. If you end up undergoing radioiodine or surgery, you will most likely have permanent hypothyroidism and be placed on a lifelong medication.
Please give Dr. Teggatz a call at The Teggatz Clinic if you have concerns about your thyroid gland as this is one of the most common conditions treated in our clinic.