Thyroid Awareness Month: Prioritizing Thyroid Health

Thyroid Awareness Month: Prioritizing Thyroid Health

In the midst of Thyroid Awareness Month, it is important to prioritize thyroid health and take the opportunity to highlight the significance of this butterfly-shaped gland and its function in our general health. The thyroid gland, located at the front of the neck, controls a wide range of essential bodily functions, regulates metabolism, and directly affects energy levels.

Underdiagnosed thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, are common. Thyroid problems can manifest with symptoms including mood swings, changes in weight, and fatigue. Thyroid Awareness Month provides an opportunity to shed some light on the importance of being proactive with our health and prompts some to make time for regular check-ups and inquire about a thyroid function test.

Who Is Affected
According to the American Thyroid Association, over 12 percent of those living in the United States can expect to experience thyroid issues at some point in their lives. Of the 20 million Americans who currently have some form of thyroid disease, approximately 12 million are unaware of their condition. Strikingly, the same number of women, 1 in 8, will be affected by a thyroid disorder as will be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in their lifetime. A prevalence that is five to eight times more than men.

What is the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is a hormone-producing gland that controls critical bodily functions, including heart rate and energy level, as well as the body’s metabolism, which is the rate at which the body converts nutrients and oxygen into energy. The center of the lower neck is home to the thyroid gland. Despite its modest size, the thyroid gland generates a hormone that influences every tissue, cell, and organ in the body.

Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism
When the thyroid gland does not create enough thyroid hormone or is underactive, the condition is known as hypothyroidism. Severe exhaustion, depression, forgetfulness, and mild weight gain are among the symptoms.

An overactive thyroid gland indicates a thyroid disorder called hyperthyroidism resulting from the gland’s overproduction of thyroid hormone. Common symptoms include irritability, anxiety, muscular weakness, unexpected or unexplained weight loss, sleep issues, visual problems, and eye discomfort.

Ultrasound and Ultrasound-Guided Thyroid Biopsy
Ultrasound is commonly used to assess thyroid abnormalities identified by the patient or their physician. Ultrasound enables the capture of thyroid images from almost any orientation. There are situations where it is not possible to determine solely from imaging tests whether a tumor is benign or cancerous.

An ultrasound-guided thyroid biopsy or fine needle aspiration (FNA) may be recommended when additional testing is needed. This is a precise method for assessing suspicious nodules and distinguishing between cysts and growths. This biopsy procedure eliminates the need for surgical removal of normal tissue.

Generally, this procedure is requested to determine the nature of a nodule in the thyroid. The large majority of these nodules are benign (non-cancerous) growths or cysts; however, this procedure identifies the very small number that need further treatment. This procedure is minimally invasive, with more than a 90% accuracy rate.

Prioritize Thyroid Health
Let’s take advantage of Thyroid Awareness Month by prioritizing thyroid health and proactively identifying thyroid disorders’ warning signs and symptoms. We can take charge of our thyroid health and create the conditions for a balanced and healthy future by increasing awareness and scheduling regular check-ups.