The thyroid gland is not something most people give much thought to. That is, until it stops functioning the way it should. Then suddenly one’s thyroid health becomes very important indeed.
The thyroid gland is located in the throat area, just around the Adam’s apple. You can feel it with your fingers, but be gentle. It is a U-shaped gland, and many people may have trouble finding it.
If that’s the case, your thyroid gland probably is in pretty good shape, as people with thyroid problems – an underactive or overactive gland – often will have a gland that is large and pronounced. We will discuss overactive and underactive thyroid symptoms in a minute.
Why is it important to maintain a healthy thyroid gland?
Well, for one thing the thyroid gland carries a very heavy load. It regulates several systems in your body. For example, it makes and stores hormones that are essential to regulating your body temperature, blood pressure, and how food is converted to energy.
These hormones help every single cell in your body work properly, and if your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, there are all sorts of health problems that can arise, from being overweight to suffering from depression, as well as more serious illnesses such as heart disease and the failure of your organs.
In addition, the thyroid gland teams up with your pituitary gland to regulate hormone levels in your body. It also regulates cell production, calcium, and several other things. These are vital functions that not only keep this little gland very busy, but also underscore how important it is to maintain your thyroid health.
To put it another way, if your thyroid gland is in lousy shape, your whole body will be in lousy shape. In fact, a malfunctioning thyroid gland can lead to serious illness or even death, not only from thyroid disease itself, but also from a number of conditions directly related to thyroid hormone production.
So what are the warning signs?
There are many underactive thyroid symptoms, as there are for a thyroid gland that is hyperactive.
People with an overactive thyroid:
** Metabolize food quicker than the body’s cells can absorb. That’s why they can eat and eat and never gain weight.
** Often are jittery and can’t sit still for long periods of time.
** Have trouble concentrating on one task and often start several projects but never finish any of them. An over active thyroid gland can even be associated with Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Underactive thyroid symptoms are just the opposite. If you have an underactive thyroid:
** You will gain weight, even if you eat properly, exercise regularly, and do all the things you need to do to keep a healthy body.
** You may feel tired all of the time, no matter how much rest you get.
** Your emotions may be all over the place; one minute you may feel fine, and the next minute you may be crying your eyes out for no apparent reason.
** You may suffer from depression. Many who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism and start treatment find that their depression goes away.
There are gender-specific underactive thyroid symptoms as well:
** Men may not be able to get or maintain an erection, and they may have a low libido.
** Women may have vaginal dryness and get more yeast infections than normal.
** Both sexes are at risk of becoming infertile. Ovarian failure is the main cause of infertility of women with thyroid disorders. Hypothyroidism in men is linked to poor testicular function, which causes poor sperm quality and a shorter lifespan for spermatic cells.
If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see your health-care provider right away. Not doing anything about these symptoms, or thinking that your problem will go away, is a mistake that, under extreme conditions, could be a deadly one.
There are several tests doctors can perform to check your thyroid health. For example, they will:
** Feel the thyroid gland to determine whether it is enlarged (an enlarged gland often is referred to as a “goiter”).
** They can inject a dye into your bloodstream and put you under a scanner to see how the dye moves through your body. This helps them determine how well your thyroid gland is functioning.
If you are diagnosed with a thyroid disease, there are medications that can be prescribed. You also may have to go on a special diet, depending on what your symptoms are. Many of these diets will call for a reduced calorie intake.
There is an abundance of information online about thyroid health and overactive as well as underactive thyroid symptoms. And although you would do well to find out as much as you can about what the thyroid gland is, what it does, and how it affects your body, the most important thing you can do if you are showing any of these symptoms is to see your doctor right away.
The earlier you get tested and diagnosed, the sooner you will be back on the road to good health.