Health

Thyroid Check

Can't lose weight? Can't sleep? Feeling irritable? Low on energy? Your thyroid may be the culprit. It's a tiny gland with a great big job.

Thyroid Check
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No one has to suffer
Despite the disagreement about screening and treatment, no one has to suffer. Synthetic thyroid hormone can compensate for the body's shortfalls in those with hypothroidism, while another type of medicine can lower hormone levels in those with hyperthyroidism. Finding the correct dosage is a matter of careful monitoring and adjustment, preferably by an endocrinologist. If you start taking birth-control pills or hormone replacement, or if you develop thyroid problems during pregnancy (which is not uncommon), your dosage will also need some tinkering. Ultimately, what to do about your problem is between you and your physician. So if your doctor doesn't have much experience handling thyroid disease, says Bergman, "you should be referred to someone who does."

You might have thyroid problems if ...
Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, trouble losing weight, dry skin and hair, fatigue, hoarseness, muscle cramps, depression, high cholesterol, mild hypertension, and an inability to tolerate the cold.
Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, can affect bowel habits and cause weight loss, hand tremors, increased perspiration, irritability, trouble sleeping, weakness in the upper arms and thighs, cardiac arrhythmia, infertility and thinning bones, in pregnant women, abnormal thyroid levels can cause a rapid heart rate in the baby, low birth weight, premature birth, and even stillbirth. screening for thyroid problems.

Why your thyroid acts up
Several things can cause your thyroid to go haywire, such as a genetic disposition, type 1 diabetes or, most commonly, an autoimmune condition. Graves' disease causes hyperthyroidism, while Hashimoto's disease is the primary cause of hypothyroidism. People with a family history of thyroid problems are likelier to get one of these conditions. Regardless of the cause, women suffer the lion's share of thyroid problems, and older women are especially vulnerable. By age 60, up to 17 percent of women (compared with 9 percent of men) have an underactive thyroid. Pregnancy, too, can throw the thyroid out of whack. Women who carry the antibody for Hashimoto's or Graves' disease may develop symptoms for the first time during pregnancy. After giving birth, women may develop an inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis) that briefly causes hyperthyroidism followed by hypothyroidism. While the condition often resolves on its own, medication may be needed to control symptoms until the thyroid returns to normal. In some cases, experiencing a thyroid problem during or just after pregnancy is a predictor of thyroid disease down the road.