Your Thyroid – What Exactly Does It Do?

According to the American Thyroid Association, thyroid disease is much more common in women with one in eight developing a thyroid disorder in her lifetime.

We’ve all heard of our thyroid. We know our thyroid levels can be high or low, but do we know what the heck it does?

The truth is a lot. This piece breaks it down.  This small gland in your neck doesn’t just control your metabolism but regulates your other bodily functions such as breathing, temperature, your menstrual cycle, etc. When it’s working well, you’ll never know it’s there. However, when it’s off, you’ll know it. When your thyroid doesn’t release enough thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much (hyperthyroidism), almost every area of your body can show symptoms – your eyes, skin, hands, i.e. It can be hard to detect because thyroid symptoms mirror symptoms for other disorders, so you need to be vigilant. Here are some things to look out for:

  1. Thinning hair. Both overactive and underactive thyroid can impact your hair production. One thing to look out for are your eyebrows, especially if they’re thinning along their outer edges which can be a sign of hypothyroidism.
  2. Puffy, dry eyes. Again, this symptom can be caused by both hypo- or hyperthyroidism, but it is a particular sign of Graves’ disease. Graves is an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism.
  3. Water retention. If your legs and ankles look swollen, it could be caused by low thyroid. Because hypothyroidism slows your body processes, you don’t shed water as efficiently, leading to swelling, most often present in the lower body thanks to gravity.
  4. Swollen neck. A significantly swollen neck can be caused by what is called a goiter, or an abnormally enlarged thyroid gland. Be sure to see your provider and have it checked out.
  5. Feeling down. A poorly-regulated body can have a negative impact on your ability to concentrate or your mood – associated with depression in the case of hypothyroidism or anxiety when hyperthyroidism is present.
  6. Your weight is up…or down. A slower metabolism (hypothyroidism) will often lead to weight gain, while a higher metabolism (hyperthyroidism) may lead to weight loss.

The key is to address these symptoms early. Left unchecked, thyroid disease can exert a significantly negative impact on your overall health, especially your heart. Fortunately, treatment is available and is most effective when the condition is caught early.

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