If you are a Dancing with the Stars fan, you are likely familiar with co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet’s recent surgery to remove her thyroid cancer. Unfortunately, Brooke’s history with thyroid issues is not unique; an estimated 27 million Americans (including myself) are living with a thyroid condition. Fortunately, thyroid conditions are treatable; however, they can be tricky to diagnose since the symptoms tend to be subtle and can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other health issues. Here are some of the most common red flags to watch out for.
First things first: What is the thyroid?
The thyroid gland is one of several endocrine glands in the body. This butterfly-shaped gland is in the neck just below the larynx (voice box). Your thyroid gland makes hormones that help control the function of many of your body’s organs, including your heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin.
What is thyroid disease?
There are a variety of diseases and conditions that cause the thyroid to malfunction. Two of the most common thyroid conditions are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive and unable to produce enough hormones to meet the body’s needs. This can occur because of a birth defect, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, an autoimmune disease, goiter or nodules.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces more hormones than the body can use. The autoimmune condition known as Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Multiple nodules, thyroiditis and excessive iodine intake can also contribute to overproduction issues.
It is also possible to get cancer of the thyroid, as was the case for Brooke Burke-Charvet. Although thyroid cancer rates are on the rise, it still remains one of the most treatable types of cancer.
What are the symptoms of a thyroid condition?
Thyroid issues can be difficult to spot at first since many of the symptoms are also indicative of other health conditions. The symptoms of thyroid dysfunction can also vary in severity from person to person. If you have other medical conditions, symptoms associated with those conditions may be more severe due to underlying thyroid issues. The cause of thyroid disease, severity of thyroid hormone deficiency and the length of time the body has been deprived of the correct levels of hormones all affect symptom severity.
Here are some signs to look for that might indicate a thyroid condition:
Do you have a thyroid condition (or know someone who does)? What symptoms did you experience that made you seek help?