Every year, the month of January is dedicated for Thyroid Awareness. Thyroid Awareness Month focuses on creating awareness about thyroid-related disorders. Several campaigns and research studies are undertaken during January with the goal of spreading maximum knowledge about the cause.
There are two common types of thyroid disorders which result from either over activity or under activity of the thyroid gland. The two categories are commonly known as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, respectively. But before addressing more about the two types, it is important to know what a thyroid gland is and why it is an important part of our body.
What is a Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid is a small gland located just below the Adam’s apple, that is at the base of the neck. The butterfly-shaped gland plays a major role in our body, regardless of its small size. It influences many of the body’s vital organs like the brain, heart, skin and kidneys. Given its importance in our body, it is mandatory to ensure a healthy and properly functioning thyroid gland for maintaining the body’s overall health.
Hypothyroidism is also known as an underactive thyroid gland. It is a condition that disables the gland from producing enough of certain essential body hormones. It is most common in women older than 60 years of age with about 10% of female population in this age group suffering from hypothyroidism in one form or another. The disorder disturbs the usual chemical balance in the body and can lead to a number of health problems, namely joint pain, infertility, obesity and even heart disease.
Hypothyroidism doesn’t display any major signs or symptoms during the early stages, but some of the symptoms below should not be taken lightly:
- More fatigue than usual, and the person also feels weaker.
- Feeling unusually cold as the hormones are not being produced in sufficient amounts.
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss can also be a sign of the thyroid malfunction.
- Frequent depression, mood swings and irritability are common symptoms of hypothyroidism.
- Excessively dry and pale skin along with coarse and thinning hair should also not be ignored.
- Muscle cramps, memory loss and constipation.
Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid is a condition opposite to hypothyroidism. An overactive thyroid produces excessive and more than usual hormonal thyroxin which results in a severely increased body metabolism. Unlike underactive thyroids, symptoms of hyperthyroid are visible from the early stage and are most common in younger women.
Some of these signs include:
- Excessive sweating and insomnia.
- Visible swelling around the base of the neck signals an enlarged thyroid gland.
- Feeling terribly hot due to faster metabolism.
- Increased anxiety resulting in shaking hands and a pounding heartbeat.
- Sudden and major weight loss along with disturbed bowel patterns.
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