According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), approximately 20 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of thyroid disease, but up to 60% are unaware of their condition. These statistics may be surprising, but thyroid disease often has vague symptoms that can be attributed to other things. Patients often report feeling fatigued, mentally scattered or sometimes slightly depressed. Read on for some tips to help identify and address thyroid dysfunction.
Small But Mighty
The thyroid is a very small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the very bottom of the front of the neck. Although the thyroid is a tiny gland, it does some serious heavy-lifting for the systems in the body. By releasing T3 and T4 hormones, the thyroid gland regulates and determines the functionality of one’s heart rate, temperature-regulation mechanisms, energy utilization and metabolism. When the thyroid isn’t working properly, it can affect how a person feels on a daily basis. However, the symptoms are often vague and may be very mild at first, making thyroid dysfunction a difficult problem to diagnose.
Types of Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid dysfunction is complicated by the fact that there are several different types of thyroid disorders, and some share the same or similar symptoms. For this reason, thyroid disorders can be difficult to accurately diagnose. Here are the main types of thyroid disorders:
- Hypothyroidism. This disorder is characterized by an under-active thyroid gland, meaning it doesn’t create enough thyroid hormone. This disorder stems from problems with the pituitary gland, hypothalamus or the thyroid gland itself.
- Hyperthyroidism. This disorder is characterized by an over-active thyroid gland, meaning it creates too much thyroid hormone. This disorder also stems from problems with the pituitary gland, hypothalamus or the thyroid gland itself.
- Goiter. A goiter is characterized by the enlargement of the thyroid gland and is often associated with hyperthyroidism.
- Thyroid cancer. Within the thyroid disorder spectrum, there are different types of thyroid cancers. In general, these cancers affect more women than men. There are many treatment options with good success rates available for thyroid cancers.
- Thyroid nodules. Nodules are lumps (masses) that form inside of the thyroid. These masses can be either benign or in rare cases, malignant. If nodules grow large enough they can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing.
A Myriad of Symptoms
The symptoms of thyroid disease can vary significantly from person to person. Therefore, it’s important to connect with your doctor if you are experiencing a any of the following on a regular basis:
- Abnormal fatigue
- Intolerance to cold or heat
- Achiness or muscle aches
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Digestive problems such as constipation
- Hair loss
- Dry skin, nails or hair
- Hoarse voice
- Enlarged thyroid or chronic sore throat
- Confusion, forgetfulness or “mental fogginess”
- Fluid retention or facial puffiness
- Anxiety and depression
There are a number of options, both medical and non-medicinal, available to help manage symptoms and regulate thyroid hormone levels. That being said, thyroid disorders are complicated and don’t always have a “cure”, so it’s important to work with your doctor to determine the best course of action. Your doctor may recommend synthetic hormone replacement medication or certain vitamin supplements. Here are some additional tips that may also be helpful for those living with a thyroid disorder:
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a nutritious diet containing ample amounts of vitamins A, B and C.
- Avoid processed foods and excess sugar in order to keep insulin at a healthy level.
- Increase consumption of protein, calcium, magnesium and iodine.
- Practice good sleep hygiene.
- Try acupuncture, massage or meditation to lower stress levels.
The Best Kind of Thyroid Management
When it comes to thyroid dysfunction, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but working with a medical professional and making healthy lifestyle choices can be very helpful for managing symptoms. At Lighthouse Senior Living, the health and well being of our residents is of paramount importance. Contact us today to schedule a virtual tour and learn more about our holistic approach to fitness, diet and lifestyle.