Many people today have thyroid issues and fail to recognize the symptoms.  The thyroid regulates body metabolism, produces thyroid hormones, and is located on the neck under the adams apple.  The thyroid can produce too much or too little, and affects women more than men. 

thyroidCredit: wikipedia

Thyroid goiter can also occur, which is usually a result of an iodine deficiency.  This became less common after iodized salt was produced.  Goiter is when the thyroid enlarges, either due to hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and benign or malignant cancer nodules.  Having nodules in the thyroid is common, with only about 5% being cancer.  Sometimes during pregnancy the goiter can swell a bit, and is usually due to low iodine.  It is important for pregnant women to take prenatal vitamins that include iodine. 

Hyperthyroidism is when there is too much of the thyroid hormone in the body, also called overactive thyroid.  This increases metabolism, bone loss, and heart disease.  It can also cause problems in women who are pregnant. 

Some causes of hyperthyroidism in adults are diffuse toxic goiter, toxic adenoma, toxic multinodular goiter, subacute thyroiditis, or drug induced.  Symptoms may include nervousness, irritability, palpitations, intolerance to heat, increased sweating, tremor, weight loss or gain, increase in appetite, diarrhea or increased bowel movements, swelling of the lower legs, decreased menstrual flow, changes in sleep patterns or vision, fatigue, and swelling of the thyroid.

If your doctor suspects you may have hyperthyroidism, he will take a blood sample to check the levels of TSH.  If the test shows hyperthyroidism, additional testing may be necessary.  One type of testing is a radioactive iodine thyroid scan, where the patient swallows radioactive iodine or is injected with 99mTc.  This type of test will show greater detail of what is going on with the thyroid.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism varies, with radioactive iodine ablation the most commonly used.  Other options include medication or surgery.

Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones.  Some causes of this type are autoimmune thyroiditis, subacute thyroiditis, previous thyroid therapy, drug induced, pituitary and hypothalamic disease, or iodine deficiency.  Symptoms include fatigue and weakness, intolerance to cold temperatures, muscle aches and cramps, constipation, weight gain or problems losing weight, poor appetite, enlarged thyroid gland, dry skin, coarse hair, facial swelling, hoarse voice, enlarged tongue, changes in menstrual cycle, depression, increase of blood cholesterol levels, and memory loss. 

Hypothyroidism is also checked by taking a blood sample and checking TSH levels. It is treated most commonly by medications such as levothyroxine.  It is very important to monitor pregnant women with this disease because it can cause miscarriages and other problems.

 It is thought that there are about 13 million Americans who are affected by thyroid problems and don't know it.   Now experts recommend testing at age 35, although it is not routinely performed unless requested.  If you have more than one symptom of a thyroid problem, it is important to discuss it with your doctor; especially if there is a family history or if you are female.  Thyroid problems also increase with age and hormonal changes.  Discuss any concerns with your doctor, as with most diseases there are several others that mimic the same symptoms as thyroidism.