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When Your Thyroid is faulty…

You may have trouble sleeping or difficulty swallowing. You could feel too cold or too hot. Or, you may suffer from unexplained fatigue. With an array of  symptoms ranging from dry skin to decreased vision, a faulty thyroid gland may be to blame.

So, it’s important to ensure that this vitally important gland which affects the body’s overall well-being is working properly, and that you can get on with the business of living a normal, healthy life.

With an estimated 20 million Americans suffering from a thyroid disorder, the American Thyroid Association has declared January national Thyroid Awareness Month to help people understand the relationship between the thyroid gland and their health.

What’s the Thyroid?

The thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck below the Adam’s apple, produces hormones that control the speed of your metabolism.

It influences the function of cells and tissues, and of major organs like the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys. When the thyroid produces too much or too little thyroid hormone, it disrupts the body’s systems causing an imbalance to the healthy functioning of vital organs.

Conditions and Symptoms

Depending on your condition, thyroid disorders make you experience a range of symptoms.

Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid overproduces hormones. Symptoms of increased metabolism include a fast heart rate, vision problems, muscle weakness, nervousness, insomnia, frequent bowel movements, fatigue,  and weight loss, among others.

Hypothyroidismis a condition when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones and slows metabolism, which results in weight gain, depression, fatigue, decreased libido, menstrual irregularity, dry skin, brittle nails, numbness, cramping, constipation, hair loss, and intolerance to cold temperatures, among other symptoms.

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that’s the most common cause of hypothyroidism, in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Damage to the thyroid prevents it from producing enough thyroid hormones.

Thyroid disorders produce wide-ranging symptoms, so before dismissing ‘insignificant’ issues like dry skin for example, it’s important to get tested for thyroid dysfunction.

The Importance of Diagnosis & Treatment

If you experience some of these symptoms or your family history indicates risk, check with your doctor if you should be tested. Women are 8 times more affected than men, with key triggers being puberty, pregnancy and the menopause.

Complications from thyroid disorders include raised cholesterol levels that increase the risk of stroke or heart attacks.

The American Thyroid Association reports that at least 60% of people with thyroid disorders remain undiagnosed.  So, don’t wait if you think you have a thyroid issue. Go to your doctor to be tested and diagnosed and get the right treatment for you.

The information presented in this article is offered for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as personal medical advice. You should consult with your personal physician/care giver regarding your own medical care.

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor to India Currents

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