January is Thyroid Awareness Month and therefore a good reminder to learn the signs and symptoms of common thyroid disorders that affect as many as 30 million Americans with an estimated 15 million of those undiagnosed. Thyroid disease is more common than diabetes or heart disease.
"Thyroid disorders are common, particularly in certain families, can have profound effects on one's health and well-being and are eminently treatable,” said Dr. Jeffrey R. Garber, immediate Past President of the American College of Endocrinology (ACE) who also works at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. Dr. Garber is the author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Overcoming Thyroid Problems (McGraw-Hill).
According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists: “The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck just below the Adam's apple. Although relatively small, the thyroid gland plays a huge role in our body, influencing the function of many of the body’s most important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. Ensuring that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly is vitally important to the body's overall well-being.”
Women are more prone to thyroid disorders than men are, primarily because they are more prone to autoimmune diseases, Dr. Garber said. “Caucasians and Latinos are more likely to have hypothyroidism than African Americans,” he said. “Hypothyroidism is much more common as one ages.”
The most common thyroid diseases include:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Graves’ Disease
- Thyroid Nodules
- Thyroid Cancer
Symptoms for thyroid diseases can vary widely and often mimic as other diseases which can lead to misdiagnosis. These symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain, depression, memory impairment, weight loss and many more. The Mayo Clinic website has an extensive list of symptoms for different thyroid diseases.
“Untreated thyroid disease may lead to elevated cholesterol levels and subsequent heart disease, as well as infertility and osteoporosis,” states the AACE on their Thyroid Awareness website. “Research also shows that there is a strong genetic link between thyroid disease and other autoimmune diseases, including types of diabetes, arthritis and anemia.”
Anyone can check for thyroid disease at home. Go to http://www.thyroidawareness.com/ for a step-by-step guide on a Neck Check to look for unusual lumps or enlargements that may indicate a thyroid condition. This site also has video to guide users through a Neck Check.