Women are at a high risk of developing a thyroid disorder. In fact, the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service reports 1 in 100 American suffer from it. If you’re a woman, you need to know what it is, what it does, and how to treat it effectively.
About the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is what keeps your body functioning optimally. The gland is located in front of the larynx. It’s job is to produce and secrete hormones, which reach every cell and organ in the body.
- Body temperature
- Heart rate
- Organ functions
When someone suffers from thyroid disease, they either have too many hormones produced or not enough – hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can make you feel ill and cause medical conditions. Each of them have their own distinct symptoms.
Hyperthyroid symptoms include:
- Losing weight
- Inability to tolerate the heat
- Increase in bowel movements
- Anxiety and irritability
- Enlarging of the thyroid gland
- Sleep disturbances
Hypothyroid symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Inability to tolerate the cold
- Dry or brittle hair
- Memory difficulties
- Depression and irritability
- High cholesterol
- Slow heart rate
- Decrease in bowel movements or constipation
While these symptoms are easily identified, diagnosing thyroid conditions can be difficult.
The Problem with Diagnosing Thyroid Disorder
It’s quite similar to find out if someone suffers from thyroid disease. A doctor just needs to check the hormone levels of the thyroid with a blood sample. The clinical term is checking your TSH.
The problem is that the symptoms are common of many other medical conditions. Doctors usually start with the most common conditions first when pinpointing a diagnosis. Thyroid doesn’t seem to be at the top of their list.
Once the blood test is taken, doctors often disagree on the levels it takes to justify a thyroid problem. For a long time, doctors thought when the TSH level was 0.5 to 5.0 was okay, but now they believe that range way too far apart, so many people with the disease wouldn’t be diagnosed.
The National American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists decided to narrow the range to .03 to 3.0 for what is considered normal. Any levels below .03 will constitute hypothyroidism, and any levels over 3.0 will indicate hyperthyroidism. Of course, the narrow margin has caused push back from some endocrinologists who believe that many people who don’t have thyroid disorder will be diagnosed with it.
The best doctors will use the test results only as one piece of information for a diagnosis. For example, if someone has a high TSH level, but no other symptoms of thyroid disorder, they will likely not give that diagnosis. If the TSH level is considered normal, but the person has all of the symptoms, the doctor may still conclude that the thyroid is malfunctioning.
A complete clinical examination is needed to determine the cause of the symptoms and blood test results. Some of the factors doctors consider are:
- Does the person have diabetes or an autoimmune disorder?
- Did the person have radiation treatment to the thyroid area?
- Have other family members suffered from thyroid disorder?
- Is there a chance for pregnancy or menopause?
- Is the patient a woman? Women are three times more likely to suffer from it.
- Does the person have an enlarged thyroid gland?
Treatment for Thyroid Disorder
Medication is prescribed to treat thyroid disorder. Usually, it’s one-time pill that is radioactive. It targets the gland and burns it out. This can keep the thyroid from over generating the hormone. Unfortunately, this can lead to an underproduction, which then will require thyroxine medication to replace the missing hormones (what is prescribed for people with hypothyroidism).
Getting Help for Your Thyroid Problem
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, you should make an appointment with your physician immediately. The longer you wait, the worse you may feel and the longer it will take to get your thyroid back to functioning the way it should be right now. If you’re approaching or in menopause, it’s even more important to bring up the possibility of thyroid disorder. It may be enough for the doctor to make it a priority to get your blood tested and examine you for other signs of a thyroid problem.