May is Thyroid Awareness Month

What is the Thyroid Gland?

The Thyroid gland is a soft, small bow-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. Thyroid hormones influence what goes on in just about every organ in your body, telling them to slow down or speed up their function as needed, regulating how much oxygen you use, and helping you generate heat.

Thyroid Disease

Thyroid dysfunction is usually caused by underactivity (hypothyroidism) or overactivity (hyperthyroidism).

Underactive Thyroid

Underactive thyroid is an autoimmune disease where your body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Symptoms of underactive thyroid may include:

weight gain


intolerance to cold

joint pain


painful periods

dry and coarse skin and hair


slow pulse

swelling of the neck (called goitre)

Overactive Thyroid

Another autoimmune condition, Grave’s disease, is responsible for 70% of cases of hyperthyroidism. It mostly affects women between the ages of 20 and 40 and is 10 times more common among women than men.

Excess thyroid hormone is produced, resulting in an overactive thyroid. It isn’t clear what triggers this autoimmune response, but it could be excess iodine.

Symptoms of overactive thyroid may include:

weight loss

heat intolerance


racing pulse





muscle weakness

bulging eyes


Treating Underactive Thyroid

People with underactive thyroid are treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Once the TSH level is back in the normal range patients continue on their current dose.

Treating Overactive Thyroid

In about 50% of cases, Graves’ disease resolves without any treatment. If it persists, you may be prescribed drugs to control the racing pulse and tremor. You may also be given a drug that interferes with the production of iodine. A 12 to 18-month course appears to offer the best chance of sustained recovery.

Surgery to remove the thyroid gland is sometimes performed if the thyroid is so enlarged it’s pressing on the windpipe, if drug treatment isn’t successful, or the patient is unwilling to take radioactive iodine, another form of treatment.

Should you have concerns always consult your healthcare professional.

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