The thyroid is an understated yet immensely powerful gland within the body. Ask a handful of people where exactly it is, and you might be met with blank stares or some vague pointing around the neck.
It helps to know what the thyroid does, why we need a healthy thyroid, and when someone should see their doctor if they suspect they have thyroid issues, which is exactly why we’re going to talk about it in this short blog post. Hopefully, you’ll learn a thing or two and have some awareness of why your thyroid matters.
So where is the thyroid?
About halfway down your neck is where the thyroid gland sits. For men, if you lifted your head and felt your Adam’s apple, you’re touching the thyroid cartilage which sits right on top of the gland. The thyroid gland is right at the top of your windpipe.
What does the thyroid do?
For such a small gland, the thyroid does a lot to keep the body ticking along. The most important function the gland is would be the production of hormones that help with digestion, growth, and keeping the body in good health. Due to the location, many of the hormones it releases play a major role in your body’s metabolism. People with a poor metabolism often find that it’s an underactive thyroid which is the root cause.
What would happen if the thyroid stopped working?
If your thyroid were to stop right now, it wouldn’t be instantly noticeable, but you would show signs quickly. Body temperature dropping and fatigue would be the first signs, with anemia and heart problems some of the more severe issues to arise if left undiagnosed and untreated.
People with undiagnosed thyroid problems may also notice their concentration is hard to keep, and they start experiencing moments of what is described as brain fog. Remember, the thyroid gland helps with hormone production for the whole body, not just the digestive system. People tend to think of hormones as relating to growth, but they also help with function, which is why the thyroid also helps with hormone production for the brain.
What problems can the thyroid have?
Symptoms will differ depending on whether someone has an underactive or overactive thyroid.
An underactive thyroid occurs when the thyroid is unable to produce an adequate level of hormones for the body, which commonly results in weight gain and constant tiredness that can’t be shaken.
An overactive thyroid occurs when the thyroid gland is overproducing hormones in the body.
Who is most at risk of having thyroid problems?
Anyone can have thyroid problems, although it is more likely for women to have problems, especially when in their 20s-40 (childbearing age), due to hormonal shifts that men don’t tend to experience.
Can someone check their thyroid?
If someone thinks they might have thyroid issues, a quick test is to drink some water while standing in front of a mirror. If you can notice any visible lumps, circular bumps, or signs of swelling in the middle of the neck, it may be a thyroid problem.
When to see a doctor
Someone who thinks they have a thyroid problem should see a doctor when:
They have trouble sleeping
They feel sensitivity to coldness (underactive) or heat (overactive)
They noticed weight gain (underactive) or loss (overactive)
Muscles ache (underactive) or twitch irregularly (overactive)
A person may also feel as though they’re having palpitations frequently and muscle aches unrelated to exercise.
When to see a specialist
Someone would typically be referred on to a specialist or told that they should seek one out when their doctor is concerned about the condition of the thyroid. More often than not, it is best to seek out help from a dedicated clinic that looks at thyroid issues. One such clinic is OneWelbeck Endocrinology, which helps diagnose thyroid disorders and provide personalized treatment plans for the individual. Remember that thyroid disorders affect each person differently.
A specialist clinic may also want to check for any nodules on the thyroid as a precautionary measure that a patient has benign nodules and wouldn’t be at risk of thyroid cancer.
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