One of the most important parts of our bodies is also one of the smallest ones. The thyroid, butterfly-shaped gland on the front of the neck below the Adam’s apple, releases hormones that have a huge impact on metabolism, among other processes.
About 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, according to American Thyroid Association estimates. More than 12 percent of people in the U.S. will develop a thyroid condition, and around 60 percent don’t know they have a problem.
A blood test is done to determine Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels. If they are above 2, then the glad isn’t functioning properly, Prudence Hall, MD, from The Hall Center, says. “The reference range used to be above 4.4, which is why 40-50 percent of cases were missed,” she adds.
Underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can lead to several conditions, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves ’ disease, thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. “There is an epidemic in this country of thyroid cancer,” Dr. Hall says. “I see a new case at least once a week.”
Several factors cause thyroid problem. Iodine deficiency, another common problem in the U.S., according to Dr. Hall; toxicity decreases the production of hormones; gluten can also cause problem with the gland. “Thyroid can also catch a cold and the infection can cause is to underperform,” she adds.
Just as there are many aspects to what affects the thyroid gland, there are multiple signs that it’s not working right.