Slepian Smith, PLLC

How do you know if you have a thyroid problem?

Thyroid disease is a lot more common in the United States than most people realize. In fact, it is even more common than diabetes or heart disease, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. It is believed that up to 30 million Americans are affected by thyroid disease. However, what is alarming is that researchers estimate up to half of all cases are undiagnosed.

When thyroid disease is left untreated, it can cause very serious health complications such as elevated cholesterol and heart disease, infertility, osteoporosis and vision problems. For that reason, it's very important to be aware of the symptoms of thyroid disease and to visit your doctor regularly so that a proper diagnosis can be made, if necessary.

What are the signs of thyroid disease?

The thyroid gland, located at the bottom of the neck, produces thyroid hormone, which is extremely important to a person's well-being. In fact, the hormone regulates every organ and every cell in the body. If too little or too much hormone is produced, the body will not function properly.

Thyroid disease is often marked by either an overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormone.

When the thyroid does not produce enough hormone, known as hypothyroidism, the body's systems slow down. Symptoms include feeling cold, tired or depressed. Unexplained weight gain is also often a symptom of hypothyroidism, and sometimes swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck is present.

When the thyroid produces too much hormone, known as hyperthyroidism, it causes the body's systems to go into overdrive. Symptoms include a racing pulse, irritability and overheatedness, trouble sleeping, and weight loss. Swelling of the thyroid gland can also be present with hyperthyroidism.

When to get checked by a doctor for thyroid problems

Anytime you notice symptoms of thyroid disease, it's important to bring it up with your doctor so that testing can be conducted, if your doctor determines that it is necessary.

In addition to knowing the symptoms of thyroid disease, it's also important to be cognizant of the risk factors. If you have a close relative who has thyroid disease, such as a parent, sibling or child, it is a good idea to get checked because thyroid disease is often hereditary.

Certain medications, including lithium or amiodarone, have been linked to causing thyroid problems, so people taking these medications would be wise to schedule a thyroid evaluation. People who have had radiation therapy to the head or neck are also at greater risk for thyroid disease.

Can I qualify for Social Security benefits based on thyroid disease?

The Social Security Administration does not have a medical listing for thyroid disease specifically. However, it may be possible to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on conditions related to the disease if the conditions are severe enough and cause you to miss out on work for 12 months or longer.

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