January is Thyroid Health Awareness Month

Your thyroid is a small but mighty gland that does a lot of work to regulate just about everything the body does. If you have a thyroid problem, it can have a big effect on your health.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at what the thyroid does.

Your Thyroid: What It Does, What It Controls

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It releases and controls various hormones involved with many of the body’s functions, including:

  • Body temperature
  • Breathing
  • Digestion
  • Your heart rate
  • Metabolism
  • …and more

The thyroid is part of the body’s endocrine system, which are glands that secrete hormones in the body. Some of the other parts of the endocrine system include the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, and the pancreas (which releases insulin).

There are several thyroid disorders that can affect your health, and we will share details on two very common ones here: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Two Common Thyroid Disorders: Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the term for an underactive thyroid. It’s what happens when the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones. You may have a family history of hypothyroidism, or you may have inflammation of the thyroid. Sometimes, the cause isn’t clear.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Feeling fatigued
  • Having a slower heart rate
  • Having constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain

Hypothyroidism can have other symptoms. If you suspect that you have hypothyroidism, see your doctor for a physical and bloodwork. A blood test can measure your thyroid hormone levels and indicate if you need medication to help regulate your thyroid.

Hyperthyroidism is the term for an overactive thyroid. This is what happens when your thyroid makes higher-than-normal levels of thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • An increased heart rate
  • Feeling more anxious
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss

Hyperthyroidism is less common than hypothyroidism. Causes include Graves’ disease and inflammation of the thyroid.

If you think that you or the senior loved one you care for have signs of hyperthyroidism, let a doctor know. Treatments include medications and surgery.

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