Slepian Smith, PLLC

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, part 1

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck. What many people don’t realize is that this hormone-releasing gland controls the functionality of many of the body’s most important organs, including the brain, heart, liver, skin and kidneys.

When the thyroid is working properly and releasing the correct amount of thyroid hormone, the body runs as it should. But when the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it means the body is not functioning properly.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans suffer from thyroid disease, and women are especially at risk. It is believed that up to half of occurrences of thyroid disease go undiagnosed. To help raise awareness on this often-undetected health issue, January was designated as Thyroid Awareness Month.

Underactive thyroid

If your thyroid isn’t releasing enough hormone, it can cause all of the body’s functions to slow down, which is referred to as hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. A few symptoms of underactive thyroid include feeling cold, tired or depressed and gaining weight for no apparent reason.

There can be numerous causes of underactive thyroid. First, the thyroid depends on iodine to create thyroid hormone, so if the body is deprived of iodine, the thyroid could be working too hard and enlarge or even turn into a goiter.

However, the most common cause of underactive thyroid is the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, mistaking it as a threat. There are other types of thyroiditis that can lead to underactive thyroid as well.

Check back for part two of this series, where we will discuss hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid.

Source: Thyroid Awareness by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, “About Your Thyroid,” last accessed Dec. 28, 2018.

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