The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the base of your neck. It produces hormones called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) in response to stimulation by thyroid stimulation hormone (TSH) from the pituitary gland. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, energy production, skin, hair, and nail growth, and vital body functions such as:
- Heart rate
- Central and peripheral nervous systems
- Body weight
- Muscle strength
- Menstrual cycle
- Body temperature
- Cholesterol level
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, is by far more common of the thyroid disorders. The disorder tends to affect women more than men. Hypothyroid symptoms come on slowly as the thyroid gland produces fewer and fewer of the hormones necessary to keep the metabolism operating effectively. In the earliest stages of the disease, few patients notice symptoms, as the symptoms seem like the normal side effects of stress. However, over time, these symptoms like weight gain and fatigue can quickly add up and become serious health issues.
The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Hair Loss
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Brittle hair and nails
- Cold intolerance
- Facial puffiness
Some patients may suffer from what is known as subclinical hypothyroidism. This is a milder form of hypothyroidism. The condition is characterized by an elevated TSH level, but normal free T3 and T4 values.
Advanced forms of thyroid disease can occur for a number of reasons. Hashimoto’s disease, also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disease and among the most common forms of hypothyroidism. This disease occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and impairs hormone production.
Anyone can develop Hashimoto disease, but it occurs more often in women and those with a family history of thyroid disease. We often see Hashimoto’s in aging women because low thyroid is much more common when you reach the perimenopausal and menopausal stages. But since the condition tends to develop gradually over time, it’s possible to have Hashimoto’s in your younger years but not get a diagnosis until your symptoms become much worse later in life.
People with other autoimmune disorders are more likely to develop Hashimoto disease. The hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto disease progresses slowly over months to years. Its symptoms vary from person to person. Hashimoto’s disease can put patients at an increased risk of thyroid cancer.
Other causes of an underactive thyroid can include thyroid nodules or a multinodular goiter, both of which increase the risk of thyroid cancer.
Untreated hypothyroidism leads to poor mental and physical performance. It also can cause high blood cholesterol levels that can lead to heart disease.
If you are experiencing symptoms related to thyroid disorder, testing is vital to early diagnosis and treatment.
When the thyroid produces too many hormones, this is known as an overactive thyroid (or hyperthyroidism). Hyperthyroidism affects about 1.2 percent of the U.S. population. The condition is more common in women than men and is more likely to be diagnosed over the age of 60. It is often caused by an autoimmune disorder known as Grave’s disease. Symptoms could include:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Rapid/irregular heartbeat
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
- Heat intolerance/Sweating
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
- Fatigue, muscle weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Skin thinning
- Fine, brittle hair
Testing Thyroid Function
While thyroid function tests are quite commonly prescribed, most patients are told their lab results are “normal,” when they don’t feel normal. This is because the line between normal and optimal is much broader.
In conventional medical practice, a blood test for thyroid disorders often only looks at TSH levels. While elevated TSH levels indicate low levels of T3 and T4, TSH can actually be suppressed by high levels of cortisol. If levels of T3 and T4 are not assessed directly, then a person could be dealing with hypothyroidism without even realizing it.
Practitioners at HealthMatrix use comprehensive thyroid testing to measure free T3, reverse T3, free T4, TSH and thyroid antibodies. This gives us a true picture of your thyroid function and can help determine the presence of an autoimmune thyroid disorder. If such a disorder is diagnosed quickly, treatment may be able to prevent permanent damage to your thyroid gland and reduce the risk of thyroid cancer.
Thyroid Disease Treatment
Once thyroid levels have been assessed, your HealthMatrix practitioner will prescribe a personalized regimen of hormone replacement, nutrition and lifestyle recommendations to maximize your results and enhance overall health and well-being. There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment plan for optimal health. You are unique and so is the harmony of your hormones.
If you find yourself struggling with thyroid problems and in need of thyroid disease treatment in the Las Vegas area, contact us today at HealthMatrix to find out how you can improve your quality of life by balancing your thyroid hormones comprehensively.