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Are you feeling colder than usual, getting tired more easily or dealing with drier-than-normal skin? These are all symptoms of hypothyroidism. Almost 5 out of 100 Americans have hypothyroidism. It’s a common medical condition yet millions of people are currently hypothyroid and don’t know it.
The thyroid gland — the small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck — releases hormones that control your metabolism and the way your body uses energy.
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) occurs when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone to meet your body’s needs. Conversely, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone.
When your thyroid hormone levels are too low, as with hypothyroidism, your body starts slowing down. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are often subtle and not specific, and may include:
Your doctor can check for hypothyroidism by performing a physical exam, ordering a blood test or using an imaging scan.
Although hypothyroidism is common in the United States, thyroid cancer is extremely rare. Risk factors for thyroid cancer include exposure to radiation, family history and gender (thyroid cancer tends to develop more in women than men).
The most common cause of hypothyroidism, a thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is also associated with increased cancer risk. This autoimmune disease prevents your thyroid from working properly by attacking healthy tissue in your thyroid gland. Your thyroid may get larger and you may notice a feeling of fullness in your throat.
Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put you at risk for cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility. With proper treatment, you and your physician can work to restore thyroid hormone levels and reverse the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Wondering if you have a thyroid disorder? Find a healthy driven doctor.
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