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Understanding thyroid disorders

The sometimes confusing signs of a thyroid disorder

It’s likely you know someone who is living with a thyroid disorder. Although thyroid problems are often not visible, they’re very common, especially in women. In fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder in her lifetime. And, women are five to eight times more likely to have a thyroid condition than are men, according to the American Thyroid Association.

“Because the thyroid affects many bodily functions and can cause a range of often misdiagnosed symptoms, both hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) and hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone) can sometimes be overlooked,” says Dr. Shuchie Jaggi, endocrinologist with Northwell Health. “And, up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.”

Hypothyroidism

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This condition most often occurs in women over the age of 60. However, it can occur in both men and women of any age. Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Loss of hair
  • Severe fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Sensitivity to cold

Hyperthyroidism

On the other end of the spectrum of thyroid conditions is hyperthyroidism which means the body has too much thyroxine, the hormone produced by the thyroid. This can be the result of an overproduction from the thyroid or by taking too much synthetic thyroid hormone. With too much thyroxine, the body’s metabolism increases significantly, resulting in a variety of symptoms such as:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Thinning, brittle hair

Eye-related symptoms

In some individuals, hypothyroidism can also affect the eyes, making them protrude beyond their normal orbits, a condition called exophthalmus. Other eye-related symptoms include, red or swollen eyes, excessive tearing and light sensitivity.

Get more information

If you are having symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as unexplained weight loss, rapid heartbeat or swelling on your neck, see your doctor. Medication is the first line of treatment and is successful in most individuals. In some cases, it may be necessary to use various therapies to eliminate thyroid tissue, a process called ablation. This can help alleviate the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Find out more about how thyroid disorders. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

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