When To See Your Doctor
- Symptoms of thyroid disorder are similar to the symptoms of many other common diseases, so a single thyroid disorder symptom may not be cause for alarm. But if you notice several symptoms, then see your doctor or an endocrinologist. Most thyroid problems can be treated safely and simply, usually with drug therapy. Women are eight times more likely than men to suffer from thyroid disorders, and more than 90 percent of the time, a thyroid problem is not cancer-related. So, visit your health care professional early if you exhibit thyroid disorder symptoms to get a definite diagnosis. Your symptoms will likely fall into one of three common thyroid disorder categories: hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism or thyroid nodules.
- Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. When the immune system is over-stimulated by the hormone, your metabolism speeds up, and the following symptoms may appear: increased nervousness, shakiness, or a jittery feeling; rapid heart beat; unexplained weight loss; a sensation of being hot when others around you don't feel hot; changes in monthly periods, usually indicated in shorter or lighter periods; a change in bowel movements, specifically in increasing frequency; and fatigue. The most common disease associated with hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease, which can be characterized by eye problems such as eye irritation, bulging eyes, or a staring look.
- Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing enough of the thyroid hormone. When the thyroid is underactive, the body mistakenly attacks the gland itself. In hypothyroidism, metabolism slows down. Symptoms of a low thyroid include fatigue or weakness, unexplained weight gain, dry skin as well as dry, brittle hair or nails, feeling cold when others around you don't, changes in menstrual periods, usually indicated in heavier periods, constipation, a decrease in appetite, puffiness around eyes that doesn't go away, and a sense of slowed or fuzzy thinking. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's disease, an inflammation of the thyroid gland. This condition can sometimes cause the thyroid gland to swell. When the thyroid gland is enlarged, it's known as a goiter.
- Thyroid nodules, or lumps, are fairly common and most of the time, harmless. You may feel a lump under the skin in the front area of your throat. These lumps can be tested using a technique called fine needle aspiration. Only 4 percent of thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous, but if you have a lump that is tender or painful to the touch, it is very important to have the lump tested early.