Know Your Thyroid and How to Care for It

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thyroid exam

Your thyroid uniquely controls the release of many hormones into your body — and can have a major effect on your health if it’s not working properly. Christine Burns, PAC, Renown Medical Group, Endocrinology, explains what to watch out for and how to take care of it.

First, an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) happens when the gland makes too many hormones. In contrast, low thyroid (hypothyroidism) occurs when the gland doesn’t make enough hormones. However, both of these imbalances can lead to several symptoms and problems.

Signs of a Thyroid Problem

Thyroid problems can certainly affect many daily activities, from making you feel more tired to causing anxiety. For this reason women may mistake these signs with other hormonal issues. With this in mind, it’s important to discuss your symptoms in detail with your provider.

Symptoms of an underactivity include:

  • decreased metabolism
  • feeling colder
  • getting tired more easily
  • drier skin
  • forgetfulness
  • depression
  • constipation

Symptoms of overactivity include:

  • nervousness
  • irritability
  • increase in swelling
  • heart racing
  • hand tremors
  • anxiety
  • trouble sleeping
  • thinning of your skin
  • fine, brittle hair
  • muscle weakness
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • unexpected weight loss, with normal food intake

In fact, left untreated, an overactive thyroid can lead to serious health problems. These include heart issues, high blood pressure, brittle bones and eye problems. Not only can an underactive thyroid can lead to coronary artery disease, infertility, and depression, but also a possible coma in severe cases.

Related: Tired? Suprising Reasons Why & What to Do

Risk Factors

Below are factors increasing your risk for thyroid disease:

  • being a woman
  • age over 60
  • family history of thyroid disease
  • an auto immune disorder, such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease
  • pregnancy or child birth within the past six months
  • radiation treatments to your neck or upper chest
  • previous thyroid surgery
  • past procedures or previous treatment including radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications

Caring for Your Thyroid

Above all, you can reduce potential problems with a healthy diet and regular exercise. In addition if you smoke, try quitting. Also avoid exposure to radiation and ask for thyroid protection when getting an x-ray. Likewise limit extra iodine and/or iron supplements in your diet, too.

In general, see your primary care provider if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms to discuss treatment options.

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