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What is thyroid disease?

The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of your neck. It creates hormones that are responsible for regulating many important processes throughout your body, including your metabolism. The way your body produces and uses energy from food is impacted when the thyroid isn’t working properly. Thyroid disease can be present at birth (congenital) or can develop over time.

According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA):

  • Nearly 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. 
  • Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease do not know of their condition.

Undiagnosed thyroid disease can put you at risk for certain conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility. Talk to your doctor if you are high-risk and/or concerned that you are showing signs of thyroid problems.

What are the risk factors for thyroid disease?

Thyroid conditions can occur in people of any age, gender or ethnic background. But you may be at an increased risk for thyroid disease if you:

  • Are female. According to the ATA, women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
  • Are over the age of 60.
  • Have a family history of thyroid disease.
  • Previously underwent radiation therapy or a thyroidectomy (partial removal of the thyroid).
  • Take a medication high in iodine.

Or, you have certain medical conditions such as:

  • Lupus
  • Primary adrenal insufficiency
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Turner syndrome
  • Type 1 diabetes


What are the causes of thyroid disease?

Thyroid disease can be caused by other diseases that affect the thyroid. These diseases include:

  • Congenital non-functioning thyroid gland
  • Graves’ disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Iodine deficiency or surplus
  • Nodules (growths) in the thyroid
  • Postpartum thyroiditis
  • Thyroiditis (swelling of the thyroid gland)


What are the types of thyroid disease?

There are two main types of thyroid disease:

  • Hyperthyroidism. The thyroid produces too many hormones.
  • Hypothyroidism. The thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones.

Both of these types of thyroid diseases can be inherited (passed down in families). Therefore, it’s particularly important for you to be aware of the warning signs if someone in your family has thyroid disease and you are at an increased risk for developing a thyroid condition.


What are the signs of hyperthyroidism?

When your thyroid is producing too many hormones, you may experience one or more of the following:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of nervousness, anxiety or irritability
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Enlarged thyroid that can be felt on the neck
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irregular or stopped menstrual periods (in females)
  • Problems with vision or eye irritation


What are the signs of hypothyroidism?

When your thyroid is producing too little hormones, you may experience one or more of the following:

  • Dry, coarse hair
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent, heavy menstrual periods (in females)
  • Trouble with memory
  • Unable to tolerate cold temperatures
  • Voice changes, such as hoarseness
  • Weight gain


Find care at Catholic Health

Scheduling an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP) is important if you are concerned that you are experiencing a thyroid problem. If you do not have a PCP,  call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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