January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Therefore, during the month of January awareness and attention are brought to learning more about the functioning of the thyroid gland and the effects associated with health concerns about the thyroid.
The thyroid gland isn’t a part of the body that we are often most conscious of its importance. The thyroid is a small gland located in the lower neck and helps your metabolism and forms new proteins. This gland is located in the endocrine system.
About 14 years ago, I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that leads to a generalized overactivity of the entire thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. It is named after Robert Graves, an Irish physician, who described this form of hyperthyroidism about 150 years ago. It is 7-8 times more common in women than men. (Source: https://www.thyroid.org/graves-disease/)
Most of us know when something isn’t right with our bodies. Therefore, I started to notice feeling more fatigued and my weight was increasing. I would fall asleep at the oddest times. I would have heart palpitations and feel anxious more often than usual. After having these feelings for so long, I made a doctor’s appointment and was diagnosed with anxiety and prescribed medication. It appeared as though something still wasn’t right. I went back to the doctor and asked for further testing. The doctor ran blood tests and the results led them to send me to an endocrinologist.
After visiting an endocrinologist, the results came back tricky. I had symptoms of someone with hypothyroidism, but the blood work showed hyperthyroidism. I was given some treatment options and decided to take medication for a little over a year. I would visit the doctor every three months. After about a year and a half, my thyroid levels had normalized. I’ve been in remission ever since.
There are a number of other diseases and illnesses associated with the thyroid. Hyperthyroidism is one of them. This is when the gland is more active than normal. With hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland is enlarged. Some of the symptoms can be insomnia, rapid heart rate, anxiety, weight loss, and increased appetite.
Another illness/disease is hypothyroidism which is the opposite of hyperthyroidism. This is when the thyroid gland is less active and slower than normal. Some symptoms can be memory impairment, weight loss, loss of appetite, tiredness/fatigue, weight gain, inability to lose weight, constipation, and anxiety.
The thyroid gland is a small gland but has a big impact on your health. To learn more, visit the American Thyroid Association online.