thyroid neck exam on woman

Know Your Thyroid

It’s estimated that thyroid disease affects 20 million Americans. If you’re a woman or over the age of 60, you’re more likely to develop a thyroid disease. Here you’ll learn about hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, how to treat them and how to check for thyroid problems at home.

Understand Different Thyroid Diseases 

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, beneath your Adam’s apple. It makes hormones that control your metabolism, which affects things like your energy levels and ability to digest food.

An underactive thyroid causes a condition called hypothyroidism. It’s the most common form of thyroid disease, and can make you feel sluggish because your thyroid doesn’t make enough hormones. It can cause:

  • Weight gain
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Low energy levels
  • Constipation
  • Feeling cold all the time

An overactive thyroid causes hyperthyroidism. Tell-tale symptoms are shaky hands and nervousness, as well as:

  • Weight loss
  • Elevated heart rate
  • High energy levels
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling hot all the time

Learn Your Treatment Options

Thyroid conditions generally aren’t life-threatening, but they can really affect your quality of life. Your best bet at getting ahead of thyroid problems is a simple blood test. You can get diagnosed as early as 35 if you’re at higher risk — like if your relatives have related diseases.

In most cases, thyroid disease can be treated with medication. You’ll take daily pills to get your hormone levels back into a healthy range, and any symptoms you may have should mellow out. If you have severe symptoms, surgery is usually simple and successful.

Do a Neck Check

Your primary care provider can give you a definitive answer about your thyroid, but you can keep an eye out at home. You can watch out for the symptoms mentioned above, or look for any abnormalities in your actual thyroid gland. Here’s how to do a neck check at home:

  1. Fill a glass of water and stand in front of a mirror.
  2. Tilt your head up, and slowly take drinks.
  3. Keep your eyes on your thyroid. Look for any unusual bulges or anything out of the ordinary.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, talk to your primary care provider. Together you can make a plan to get your hormone levels into healthy ranges and regain your quality of life.

Signs of Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism