Over 12% of Americans develop a thyroid condition during their lifetimes. Your thyroid gland is responsible for a huge range of your body’s functions. Fortunately, there are plenty of great ways to manage these conditions.
However, a lot of people live for years without having their thyroid condition diagnosed by a doctor. Understanding how to spot thyroid problems is the first step in getting effective treatment for them.
So what are some common thyroid problems and how can you spot them? Read on to find out more about the signs of thyroid problems.
What are Common Thyroid Problems?
Your thyroid is a small gland that sits in your neck, in front of your windpipe. It plays a vital role in producing hormones that help to regulate your body’s metabolism.
Having too much or too little of these hormones can have a big impact on the way your body functions. They can result in:
- Mood swings
- Weight loss or gain
- Tiredness or lethargy
- Loss of libido
- Sensitivity to temperature
- Irregular menstrual patterns
- Anxiety and depression
A range of different conditions, which may also be referred to as thyroid disease, can affect your thyroid gland. These often result in hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).
However, over or underactive thyroids are usually caused by another underlying thyroid condition.
For example, thyroiditis and iodine deficiency can both cause hypothyroidism. But each of these conditions requires different treatments. If you want to learn more about this you can read more here.
Before you can figure out the cause of your thyroid problem, you need to spot it. Let’s take a look at five thyroid problems and their symptoms.
Thyroiditis occurs when your thyroid gland becomes swollen. Some instances of this, such as postpartum thyroiditis, can be temporary and will go away with time. Other types require treatment and may become chronic.
The most common symptoms of thyroiditis relating to hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Difficulty exercising or sticking to an exercise regime
However, if your thyroiditis comes on quickly, you may experience an increase in your thyroid hormones. This can cause anxiety, palpitations, weight loss, and insomnia.
- Graves’ Disease
Graves’ disease is a type of immune system disorder and is a common cause of hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid). Symptoms of Graves’ disease include:
- Anxiety or irritability
- Tremors in your hands and fingers
- Sensitivity to heat
- Weight loss (even if your diet hasn’t changed)
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
- Reduced libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- More frequent bowel movements
- Difficulty sleeping
- Bulging eyes (also known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy)
- Red skin on the tops of the feet or shins (also known as Graves’ dermopathy)
Most treatments for this condition focus on reducing your thyroid’s production of hormones. These treatments can range from medication to radioactive iodine therapy and surgery.
- Thyroid Nodules
Thyroid nodules are lumps that can form within your thyroid. They can either be solid or filled with fluid. Most of the time these nodules are not cancerous.
You may be able to spot larger nodules or feel them if you press on your throat. However, nodules can also cause other symptoms including:
- Weight loss
- An increase in sweating
- Agitation or nervousness
- A rapid or irregular heartbeat
Often a doctor will test your nodules to make sure they aren’t cancerous and (if they aren’t) will monitor your condition for a while. If your symptoms become more severe they may recommend treatment to manage them. In some cases, doctors will perform surgery to remove large nodules.
- Thyroid Goiters
It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between a thyroid nodule and a goiter. A goiter is another name for the swelling of your thyroid gland. This can cause a lump at the front of your neck.
If you have a goiter, it will move up and down with your thyroid whenever you swallow. Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Your throat feeling tighter than normal
- A hoarse voice and other vocal changes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
Small goiters usually don’t require treatment and can go away on their own. You can treat larger goiters using radioiodine therapy and surgery. Like nodules, these are generally not cancerous but your doctor will be able to confirm this.
- Thyroid Cancer
Every year, around 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This can, of course, be very scary. However, the survival rates for thyroid cancer are fairly good, especially if you catch it early.
Some of the common symptoms of thyroid cancer include:
- A painless lump or swelling at the front of your neck
- Swollen glands are the side of your neck
- Having trouble breathing
- Difficulty when trying to swallow
- A hoarse voice that lasts for a few weeks
- A sore throat that doesn’t improve with time
These symptoms do not always mean that you have thyroid cancer, so try not to panic if you do have them. Instead, make an appointment to speak to your doctor about them. They will be able to identify or rule out serious conditions quickly and will get you the treatment you need.
Speak to Your Doctor About Thyroid Problems Today
As you can see, thyroid problems can have a big impact on the way your body works. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that a doctor can treat or even cure certain thyroid conditions. So if you are concerned about your thyroid, you should get make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
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