According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 20 million people are affected by thyroid disease — 60 percent of them unaware that they have it. It is estimated that over 12 percent of the total U.S. population will suffer, to some degree, of thyroid-related diseases.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck. It is responsible for numerous vital body functions, and when it is affected, your life can be altered in many ways. As a gland that is responsible for the secretion of hormones related to reproduction, its malfunction can affect your mood, your level of activity and even how your body looks.
According to WebMD, the most obvious symptoms are:
1. Unexplained weight change
The amount of hormones secreted by your thyroid has an impact on your weight. Low hormone levels secreted compared to what is considered normal, means your thyroid is working more slowly, resulting in weight gain; this condition is known as hypothyroidism. Adversely, hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid secretes high levels of hormones, inducing weight loss.
To consider your weight change as a symptom, the noticeable loss or gain of weight should happen inexplicably; there should be zero change in your diet and exercise patterns.
2. Changes in heart rate
Because the thyroid affects most of your organs, your heart can be affected, and the beating of your heart may be more or less rapid than normal. A healthy heart beats between 60 and 100 beats per minute, depending on your weight, height, age and other physical conditions.
3. Changes in mood and energy levels
Thyroid disorders can have a tremendous impact on your energy level, which can affect your mood. People who suffer from hypothyroidism tend to feel more tired, are more prone to depression and generally move slower. On the other hand, those suffering from hyperthyroidism suffer from anxiety, high stress levels, sleep problems and increased irritability.
Hair loss is a symptom shared by both those suffering from hyper- and hypothyroidism.
5. Swelling in the neck
Neck inflammation is probably the most obvious symptom that something is wrong with the thyroid. This symptom should be treated seriously, as inflammation in this area can also mean the presence of nodules or cancer.
6. Other more general symptoms of hypothyroidism
Dry or scaly skin, brittle nails and hair, irregular menstrual periods, fatigue and constipation.
7. Other more general symptoms of hyperthyroidism
Muscle weakness, trembling hands, diarrhea, irregular menstrual periods and vision problems.
Thyroid disease can, in addition, impact your sexuality, fertility and overall happiness by abrupt changes in mood. Note that some of the symptoms can be a sign of other diseases, so it is extremely important to consult your doctor to determine causes of your symptoms. A blood test will determine if your thyroid is working normally.
In most cases these conditions can be treated, allowing you to live a normal life again. In the case of cancer, a large percentage of patients respond favorably to treatment, except in some very aggressive cases.