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What does the thyroid do?

What does the thyroid do?
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The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck, which has two side lobes. Even though it’s small, it controls many bodily functions. Since it produces hormones that regulate things like mood, digestion, and the body’s metabolic rate, among others, there are plenty of health issues linked to thyroid problems, too. Here are some health problems that might occur if your thyroid is not functioning properly.

Here are the thyroid facts everyone should know.

Strange weight changes

Strange weight changes
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Because the thyroid gland regulates metabolism, too much thyroid hormone causes the general “speeding up” of bodily functions, according to the Australian Thyroid Foundation. So it makes sense that if you’re experiencing unexpected weight loss, hyperthyroidism could be to blame. On the other end of the spectrum, if the number on your bathroom scale is going up, the increase could be caused by hypothyroidism, which causes the slowing of bodily processes. Professor Leonard Wartofsky explains than usually the weight gain isn’t a matter of obesity; it’s in the range of two to five kilograms. “So slow, progressive, modest weight gain could raise suspicions.”

Don’t miss these everyday habits that secretly slow your metabolism.

Feeling sluggish and sleepy

Feeling sluggish and sleepy
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If you’ve been tired and ‘blah’ despite adequate sleep, an underactive thyroid might be the reason, per Harvard Medical School.  Dr Wartofsky adds that patients with overactive thyroid experience a different kind of fatigue. “With hyperthyroidism, it’s a feeling of being worn out – of running on a hamster wheel and feeling exhausted.”

Here are some medical reasons you’re tired all the time.

Freezing in January or sweating in July

Freezing in January or sweating in July
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Feeling cold in the middle of summer – for example, needing a jumper in the February heat – is a reason to get checked for hypothyroidism. Conversely, says endocrinologist, Sr Alan P. Farwell, if you’re sweating through a t-shirt in the middle of July, it could be time to wonder about an overactive thyroid.

Problems with your period and pregnancy

Problems with your period and pregnancy
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In women, menstrual irregularities can be common with either an underactive or overactive thyroid gland. “In hypothyroid women, cycles tend to be longer and heavier,” says Dr Farwell. “In hyperthyroidism, cycles tend to be shorter and scantier.” In addition, both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are causes of fertility issues, with hypothyroidism being more common. The reason? “Moderate to severe hypothyroidism can cause increases in the pituitary hormone prolactin that can directly block the other pituitary hormones that regulate ovulation and the menstrual cycle,” Dr Farwell explains. In addition, he adds that hypothyroidism in pregnant women, even if mild, can affect the brain development of the baby. “It is critically important that any woman on thyroid hormone as well as those with a family history of thyroid problems or any symptoms of thyroid problems should get their thyroid levels checked early in any pregnancy.”

Freaking out or feeling down

Freaking out or feeling down
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As hyperthyroidism speeds up body functions, it could make you nervous or irritable.  “Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include feeling jumpy, jittery, or shaky,” says Dr Farwell. Conversely, as body processes slow with hypothyroidism, feeling depressed or even becoming forgetful could be the result. “Depression is a common condition where a thyroid problem could be missed,” Dr Farwell adds.

Here are the silent signs of a thyroid problem you may be ignoring.

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Weirdness with skin and hair

Weirdness with skin and hair
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“Dry skin in summer – as opposed to winter when dryness is more normal – would be suspicious,” says Dr Wartofsky. This could be a symptom of hypothyroidism, in which a slowed metabolism could reduce sweating, therefore leaving your skin without enough moisture, according to research published in 2011 in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology. And other research in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that hypothyroidism could also be to blame if hair is falling out. Low thyroid hormone levels interfere with the hair’s growth cycle, which could lead to hair loss.

Find out how to cope with female hair loss.

A new lump in the neck

A new lump in the neck
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The most common symptom of thyroid cancer is a lump or swelling in the neck, according to the Endocrine Society. While other signs include trouble swallowing, pain in the neck or throat, or a hoarse voice that doesn’t seem to go away, many cases of thyroid cancer don’t exhibit any symptoms at all.

Hate the sound of your voice? Find out why here.

Plus a bunch of other random issues

Plus a bunch of other random issues
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“The trouble is thyroid can cause almost any symptom under the sun: weight gain, weight loss, feeling fatigued, feeling stressed, a fight with your partner – anything,” says endocrinologist, Dr Michael Tuttle. Other symptoms of thyroid disease include constipation, elevated cholesterol, memory problems, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and more. Dr Tuttle urges patients not to accept such varied problems as natural characteristics of ageing or mood, but to use them as a reason to ask your doctor for a blood test to check your thyroid levels. “People should realise that any of these subtle symptoms could actually be early thyroid disease, which is very simple to test for,” he adds. “There’s no reason to sit around struggling with these problems when it could be something that’s so easy to treat.

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Source: RD.com

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