January is Thyroid Awareness Month.
While up to 20 million Americans have thyroid disease, according to Dr. Shirisha Avadhanula, of Cleveland Clinic, oftentimes, it’s easy to miss.
Because the symptoms of thyroid disease often mirror symptoms for other ailments, such as irritable bowel syndrome or even depression, she said people may not suspect their thyroid could actually be to blame.
“People can come in saying, ‘I’m not able to sleep through the night,’ or, ‘I’m having diarrhea,’ or, ‘I’m just hot all the time; I’m sweating all the time; I’m losing weight for no reason; I’m hungry all the time, but I’m losing weight,’" she said.
Avadhanula said the thyroid is the major metabolic regulator in our bodies.
The thyroid can tell the heart how fast to beat, make bone turn over faster and even regulate mood.
And there is a large spectrum of thyroid disease.
The most common types of thyroid disease are over-active, or hyperthyroidism and under-active, or hypothyroidism.
An overactive thyroid can cause problems such as diarrhea, sleeplessness and anxiety.
With an under-active thyroid, people will often complain of fatigue, constipation, cold intolerance, weight gain and even depression.
Avadhanula said both men and women can have thyroid disease; however, it is far more common in women.
And because thyroid dysfunction symptoms can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, she believes it’s important that people feel empowered to speak up if they’re not feeling quite right.
“It’s important for women to, one, advocate for their health, but two, be conscious and conscientious of what their body is naturally telling them and seek help from a physician if they feel that something is off,” she said.
Testing for thyroid dysfunction is performed through a blood test.
Avadhanula said the good news is that once diagnosed, thyroid disease can be treated with medications or other measures.