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The thyroid gland makes hormones and releases them into the bloodstream so they can be carried to every tissue in the body. These hormones help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart and other organs working as they should.
Sometimes, the thyroid doesn’t function the way it should. When it doesn’t make enough hormones, the condition is called hypothyroidism.
The thyroid makes two hormones – T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). The pituitary gland in your brain releases TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). It controls the release of hormones from your thyroid. You need a healthy, balanced level of all of these hormones. If your thyroid gland does not release enough hormones, you have a hypothyroid problem.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland, is one of the most common causes for hypothyroidism. Other causes can be radiation therapy to the neck, certain medications, surgical removal of the thyroid, head injuries that disrupt the pituitary or hypothalamus glands in the brain, pregnancy, and low levels of iodine in your diet.
There are many subtle symptoms of hypothyroidism. Women are more at risk than men, and may experience changes in their menstrual cycles. Other signs include unexplained weight gain, moodiness, feeling tired, breaking hair, constipation, feeling cold all the time, a slow heart rate and the gland swelling to name a few.
Fortunately, hypothyroidism is simple to treat. A simple hormone supplement restores your body’s hormone levels and body function. You need a prescription from your doctor, and when you use your health insurance they can be affordable.
Most people know about hypothyroidism because they’ve experienced some of the thyroid problem symptoms above.
Hyperthyroidism is the reverse of hypothyroidism. It means your body makes too much thyroid hormone. If you are hyperthyroid, you may experience weight loss, hand tremors, dry skin, a rapid heartbeat, mood swings or anxiety. Graves’ Disease, lumps or nodules on the thyroid gland, and pregnancy can lead to hyperthyroidism. If you have a hyperthyroid problem, it can be treated with medications that stop the thyroid gland from making as many hormones. Your doctor may prescribe beta blockers to slow your thyroid production.
If you think you may have a thyroid problem, talk to your doctor. Being proactive in your health care makes a big difference in your quality of life.
Originally published 1/7/2016; Revised 2021
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