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Thyroid Imbalance Becoming More Common

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Two of my dear friends were diagnosed just this year with thyroid imbalances: One has hypothyroid, or underactive thyroid, and my other friend has been diagnosed with hyperactive, or overactive, thyroid. Both conditions seemed to throw their weight off-balance, along with bloating and skin breakouts. Plus, tracking their symptoms was so confusing: PMS? Menopause? Food allergy?

Located in the throat area near the Adam’s apple, the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the rate at which every cell, tissue and organ functions in your body. Approximately 20 million Americans suffer from a thyroid imbalance today, according the American Thyroid Association.

A simple blood test involves checking your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) and possibly other hormones. The American Thyroid Association recommends adults be screened for thyroid dysfunctions every five years starting at the age of 35. Doctors may also suggest a thyroid scan to check for thyroid nodules.

“The symptoms of thyroid diseases are so wide-ranging—affecting your mood, energy, body temperature, weight, heart and more—that it may be difficult to get the correct diagnosis right away,” says Jeffrey R. Garber, MD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Misleading symptoms is one reason why many Americans who have thyroid disease—mostly women—do not yet know they have it. The first step to diagnosing a thyroid imbalance is to know the signs and symptoms to look for and report to your physician.”

Often hereditary, the condition is five to eight times more likely to affect women than men. While it is not certain why women are more susceptible to thyroid disease, doctors think female sex hormones such as estrogen can alter the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood.

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid are:  

• Weight loss or sudden gain
• Nervousness or anxiety
• Irritability
• Rapid heartbeat
• Increased bowel movements
• Sweating
• Sleeplessness
• Hand tremors
• Muscle weakness

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid are:

• Weight gain
• Extreme fatigue
• Depression
• Constipation
• Forgetfulness
• Dry skin and hair
• Muscle cramps

According to the American Thyroid Association, women are 50 times more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism than men. For some women, hypothyroidism may occur during the early phases of menopause. While it is not known for sure why, doctors suggest it may be the result of hormone fluctuations.

Will you get tested?

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