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    Could You Have a Thyroid Problem?

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    The thyroid gland’s main job is to manage your:

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    The thyroid gland’s main job is to manage your:

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    This small gland in your neck makes hormones that control how you use energy. They determine how your organs do their jobs: how fast or how slow they use oxygen, make proteins, and respond to other hormones.

     

    Sometimes thyroid glands don't work like they should. If yours makes less thyroid hormone than normal, it’s called hypothyroidism. If it makes too much, you have hyperthyroidism.

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    Weight gain is often a problem for people with:

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    Weight gain is often a problem for people with:

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    If your thyroid gland isn’t making enough hormones, you could gain weight. That’s because your metabolism slows down and your body hangs onto salt, water, and fat. If your thyroid gland is overactive, you’ll probably lose weight, sometimes without even trying.

    Women are more likely than men to have a thyroid imbalance.

    Women are more likely than men to have a thyroid imbalance.

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    Thyroid problems are less common in men. Women are about 50 times more likely to have hypothyroidism. Some scientists think female hormones, like estrogen, trigger it. But no one knows for sure.

    Tired all the time? It could be your thyroid.

    Tired all the time? It could be your thyroid.

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    In addition to fatigue and weight gain, you might be depressed, get constipated, feel sluggish, notice that your skin and hair are dry, and have muscle cramps. An underactive thyroid gland is linked to a slowing metabolism. An overactive thyroid means your system is running at full blast all the time. Either can make you tired.

    You’re most likely to have a low thyroid when you’re:

    You’re most likely to have a low thyroid when you’re:

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    You’ll probably start the change in your late 40s or early 50s. Doctors aren’t sure why this age group is more likely to have thyroid trouble. It may be related to changes in hormones.

    Overactive thyroid symptom can include:

    Overactive thyroid symptom can include:

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    Look for signs of an increased metabolism. These can include weight loss, nervousness or anxiety, irritability, a racing heart, more bowel movements, sweating, sleeplessness, hand tremors, and muscle weakness.

    Changes in thyroid function during pregnancy are normal.

    Changes in thyroid function during pregnancy are normal.

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    Most of the time the gland works like it should. But pregnancy can slow it down or speed it up. Higher levels of hormones, like estrogen, change the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood.

     

    Thyroid problems may be hard to diagnose during pregnancy because the symptoms are often similar -- fatigue, weight gain, changes in mood or sleeping patterns. Your doctor will keep an eye out for trouble.

    There’s a link between autoimmune disorders and thyroid problems.

    There’s a link between autoimmune disorders and thyroid problems.

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    Your immune system can attack your thyroid in a couple of ways. Graves' disease will cause it to make too much thyroid hormone. On the other end of the scale, Hashimoto's disease causes chronic inflammation and disrupts hormone production.

    Thyroid trouble runs in families.

    Thyroid trouble runs in families.

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    You’re more likely to have a thyroid problem if someone you're related to had one.

    Your doctor should start thyroid screening tests when you’re:

    Your doctor should start thyroid screening tests when you’re:

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    After the first one, you should get them every 5 years. It’s a simple blood test that measures the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and other thyroid hormones in your bloodstream.

    Thyroid hormones from animals are the best way to treat underactive thyroid.

    Thyroid hormones from animals are the best way to treat underactive thyroid.

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    The preferred treatment is thyroxine, a synthetic version of the main thyroid hormone. For many years, thyroid hormones taken from animals (mainly pigs) were used to treat the condition -- and similar products are still sold today. But their quality and effectiveness can vary widely. The man-made version is much safer.

    Overactive thyroid can be treated with:

    Overactive thyroid can be treated with:

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    Anti-thyroid drugs block the gland’s ability to make hormones. Radioactive iodine damages the cells that make the hormone. Surgery removes the thyroid gland. Your treatment will be based on your age, the type of hyperthyroidism you have, how bad it is, and other health problems you have.

    Left untreated, thyroid disease can lead to:

    Left untreated, thyroid disease can lead to:

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    If you don’t do anything about thyroid disease, you'll raise your chances of getting a number of serious long-term conditions, including heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, infertility, and mental problems. Pregnant women are more likely to have a miscarriage or other pregnancy-related issues.

    Thyroid problems lead to thyroid cancer.

    Thyroid problems lead to thyroid cancer.

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    There's no evidence that thyroid problems cause cancer. But if you do have thyroid cancer, you may also have an underactive thyroid.

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    RESULTS: Great job! You know your way around the thyroid gland.

    RESULTS: Not bad, but you could do better. Do a little more reading and try again.

    RESULTS: Keep trying; you can do better. Do a little more reading and take the quiz again.