The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It produces hormones that drive metabolism, and it influences nearly every cell in the human body.
Thyroid disorders are common in the United States, affecting up to 20 million people at any given time. It’s important to note that women are ten times more likely to be diagnosed with a thyroid condition than men. Some of the most common thyroid disorders include:
Hypothyroidism, characterized by low levels of thyroid hormones, can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and sensitivity to cold, dry skin and hair, and brittle nails. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through blood tests and assessing patient symptoms. Hypothyroidism is typically treated with medications that replace the lack of thyroid production by the body.
Hyperthyroidism, characterized by excessive levels of thyroid hormones, can lead to symptoms such as rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, weight loss, jitteriness, and increased sensitivity to heat. Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed through blood tests and imaging. It may be treated with medications to block hormone production, or with surgery to remove a portion of the overactive thyroid gland.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder and is the leading cause of hypothyroidism. It can lead to many of the same symptoms seen in hypothyroidism, as well as other complications. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is diagnosed with a blood test to confirm the presence of certain thyroid antibodies, and thyroid hormone levels are typically measured as well. Hashimoto’s may be treated with medications to restore thyroid hormones to optimal levels, in addition to diet modifications and avoiding foods that trigger flare-ups.
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