The Disease that Affects 30 Million Americans

doctor examining her patients neckJanuary is Thyroid Awareness Month! Located in the base of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple, the thyroid is a small gland with a huge function. Because it influences the function of many vital organs, a healthy thyroid is critical to your overall health.

An estimated 30 million Americans are living with thyroid disease and at least half of them are undiagnosed. Although it can be easily treated, raising awareness for thyroid disease is important, because it impacts so many people. It’s more common than both diabetes and heart disease.

Why is thyroid health important?

In addition to influencing the metabolism and major organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver, brain and skin, the thyroid gland produces a hormone that controls virtually every cell, tissue and organ in the body. Ongoing, untreated thyroid disease can have serious consequences including elevated cholesterol levels, heart disease, infertility and osteoporosis.

A thyroid that fails to function properly can produce either too much or too little hormone, resulting in the conditions known as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. A person with an overactive thyroid, hyperthyroidism, may notice the following symptoms:

  • exhaustion
  • rapid pulse, shaking of the hands
  • nervousness, agitation, anxiety
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea

Alternatively, someone suffering with hypothyroidism will not have enough thyroid hormone in the bloodstream and will suffer with the following symptoms:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • depression
  • hair loss
  • constipation
  • lethargy and exhaustion
  • feeling cold

How do you know if you have a thyroid problem?

Speaking to your healthcare provider and knowing your family history can be a great way to determine whether you are at risk. A simple blood test and physical examination can be conducted if you are experiencing any or all of the symptoms listed above. Additionally, performing a simple neck check at home is a great method for early detection. Follow these 4 steps to conduct your self-exam:

  • 1. Hold a mirror in your hand and focus your eyes on your lower neck, just above the collarbones.
  • 2. While keeping your eyes focused on your neck in the mirror, tip your head back, take a sip of water and swallow.
  • 3. As you swallow, check your neck for any visible lumps or bulges. Remember that the Adam’s apple is above the thyroid gland, so don’t confuse the two.
  • 4. After repeating the process a few times, speak with your healthcare provider if you do notice any lumps or bulges.

Because thyroid disease is so easily treated, there’s no reason to be part of the 15 million Americans who suffer with the disease daily and remain undiagnosed. As your neighborhood healthcare experts, the staff at Chancy Drugs is here to answer any questions. We look forward to seeing you soon.

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