Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thyroid Awareness Month

Did you know that more people have hypothyroidism than diabetes? Yep, it's true (if you're wondering why it's relevant, they're both endocrine disorders).

I imagine that a fair amount of people have little to no idea what hypothyroidism is. January is Thyroid Awareness Month, so I will share some info and first hand experience with you!

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck. You can actually feel it (and your doctor should totally check it!) it's your Adam's Apple. Your thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate your metabolism and growth rate and about a zillion other things in your body. That is the quick and dirty description of it. It's a little gland, but it's incredibly important to many, many of your bodily functions.

When your thyroid is functioning well, life is good. When it goes bad, it goes bad. There are two autoimmune diseases (and the most common problems with your thyroid, aside from cancer) that effect the thyroid. One is Graves disease, which causes hyperthyroidism. Basically, your thyroid starts producing too much thyroid hormone. The symptoms associated with Graves are heart palpitations, excessive sweating, excessive hunger, weight loss and muscle fatigue. Treatment focuses on ways to slow down or stop the production of excessive thyroid hormone. One method for treatment is radioactive iodine, basically to destroy parts of the thyroid. One unfortunate part of Graves disease is that it leads to hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is the result of a decrease in the amount of thyroid hormone in your body. The name for autoimmune hypothyroidism (which is what I have) is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. In my opinion, the hyper people have a better name for their disease. Anyway, there is a laundry list of symptoms for hypothyroidism: lack of energy, hair loss, abnormal weight gain, brittle nails, dry skin, extreme sensitivity to coldness, brain fog, muscle soreness, difficulty getting pregnant. The list goes on and on. Treatment is fairly easy, hormone replacement pills, to be taken everyday for the rest of your life.

Although treatment is fairly straight forward, getting diagnosed was tricky. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are vague and can be caused by many other diseases. Fortunately, all you need to get diagnosed is a doctor who is paying attention and a simple blood test. I saw maybe close to half a dozen doctors over a span over seven months before I was finally diagnosed. It was a long and scary battle. I started feeling better a few weeks into the treatment. For the better part of 18 months, I was getting tested monthly, and my dose changed several times. Since my pregnancy ended, my thyroid has been stable.

I am obviously not a doctor, but if you have concerns about your thyroid, you should definitely check with your doctor. I am happy to discuss my experiences further if you have any questions!

1 comment:

  1. Thyroid gland is not adam's apple:)
    It is located under it:)