There seems to be a month that focuses on every ailment you can think of, but this one hits home for me personally. I lost my thyroid after a bout with cancer and two surgeries back in 2013. I knew at the time that for the rest of my life I would be medicated with artificial thyroid hormones, but boy, I had no idea how hard that actually is.
You would think that managing your thyroid levels would be easy, but it’s always a moving target. I don’t think my numbers have ever been the same at my biannual exams. That means your medications are always being tweaked and your body needs to readjust.
It’s incredible how much impact that little gland has on all your organs and systems. Here’s a list of fun symptoms people with hyperthyroidism deal with:
- Unintentional weight loss, even when your appetite and food intake stay the same or increase
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — commonly more than 100 beats a minute
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Pounding of your heart (palpitations)
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
- Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
- Fatigue, muscle weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Skin thinning
- Fine, brittle hair
And those of us like me who deal with hypothyroidism, here is a list of our fun symptoms:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
Many of these symptoms also occur in both hyper and hypothyroidism. I know, I’ve experienced almost all of these symptoms.
So yes, January is Thyroid Awareness Month and according to The American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. Plus:
- An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.
- Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.
- Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
- One woman in eight will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
- Most thyroid cancers respond to treatment, although a small percentage can be very aggressive.
- The causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown.
- Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for certain serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility.
- Pregnant women with undiagnosed or inadequately treated hypothyroidism have an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and severe developmental problems in their children.
- Most thyroid diseases are life-long conditions that can be managed with medical attention.
So please remember to have your thyroid function checked, especially if any of the above symptoms are present and you’re unclear why you feel the way you do.