Are you asking yourself, “Do I have a thyroid problem?”
Symptoms of thyroid problems are often difficult to recognize because they are common in many other conditions.
If you suspect you have a thyroid problem, it may be time to talk to your doctor.
To schedule an appointment with one of our endocrinologists, or for more information about our services, call 412-586-9700 and select option 5.
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What Does the Thyroid Do?
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found near the front of your neck. The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system, and it produces important hormones that help regulate your whole body.
The thyroid gland affects energy levels, digestion, heart rate, and mood, among other things. Although the thyroid is involved in your overall health, its primary function is to control your metabolism. Not surprisingly then, one of the most common symptoms of impaired thyroid function is gaining or losing weight.
Symptoms of Thyroid Problems
A malfunctioning thyroid can disrupt many systems in your body. If your thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), it produces too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Excessive sweating or feeling hot
- Change in energy level
- Weight loss
- Difficulty sleeping
- Irritability or mood swings
If your thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism), it produces too little thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Since these symptoms also occur with many other conditions, a thyroid problem can be difficult to diagnose. It is not uncommon to have a thyroid disorder and not know it. An evaluation by an experienced endocrinologist can confirm the diagnosis.
Risks of Thyroid Disorders
There are certain risks related to an underactive or overactive thyroid.
Hypothyroidism can contribute to weight gain and metabolic complications such as high cholesterol, both of which can contribute to heart disease. It can also contribute to depression and fatigue.
Hyperthyroidism can cause heart problems such as a rapid heart rate, or arrhythmia. It can also contribute to thinning of the bones.
Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can increase the risk of birth defects or infertility in some women. Left untreated for a prolonged period of time, they also can be life threatening.
Other Thyroid Disorders and Associated Medical Conditions
The most common cause of thyroid disorders is autoimmune thyroid disease, which occurs when antibodies mistakenly attack the thyroid.
For example, in Graves’ hyperthyroidism, antibodies cause the thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormone. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, antibodies decrease hormone production by slowly destroying the thyroid gland.
In addition, autoimmune thyroid disease can be associated with other autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.
Goiters and nodules also are associated with thyroid problems. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. Nodules, or small growths in the thyroid gland, are common and most often do not cause problems. In some cases, however, nodules may be associated with thyroid cancer or thyroid dysfunction. Early diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer is very effective.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
The UPMC Department of Endocrinology stands as a national leader in research of diabetes and endocrine conditions. We partner with the University of Pittsburgh Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism for research and clinical trials. We treat diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, hormonal disorders, and thyroid disorders at several locations across our communities. We also have specialized Diabetes Centers to help you manage your disease. Find an expert near you.