What About Your Thyroid?
You find it hard to concentrate and feel tired all the time. You have been losing or gaining weight without even trying. Are these indications you are getting older, or do you have a thyroid problem?
The thyroids’ primary function is to take the iodine found in many foods and convert it into thyroid hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The T3 and T4 hormones are released into the bloodstream where they are transported throughout your body to control metabolism. Every cell in your body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of metabolism.
The thyroid hormones regulate vital body functions, including breathing, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, body temperature, cholesterol levels, and more. Too much of the T3 and T4 in your body is called “hyperthyroidism” (caused by Graves’ disease). Symptoms of this include anxiety, nervousness, sweating, hand trembling or hair loss. Having too little T3 and T4 is called “hypothyroidism” (caused by Hashimoto’s disease). Those symptoms include trouble sleeping, fatigue, dry skin/hair, depression, or joint and muscle pain.
It can be hard to tell if you have a thyroid disease. The symptoms are the same as many other health problems. Your primary care provider may start by asking about your health history, and if any of your family members have had thyroid disease. They may also give you a physical exam and check your neck for thyroid nodules.
Depending on your symptoms, other tests may be conducted, such as:
- Blood tests. Testing the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood can help figure out if your thyroid is overactive or underactive. TSH tells your thyroid to make thyroid hormones. Depending on the results, your doctor might do another blood test to check levels of T3 and T4.
If you are having any of the above symptoms or have concerns, see your primary care provider. Your provider will determine if there is a thyroid issue and begin the appropriate treatment if needed.