The thyroid is a small gland that can have a big impact on how you feel.
Located at the base of the neck, it produces hormones that travel to the rest of the body, impacting metabolism, pregnancy, energy, heart rate, mood, bone health and more—so when your thyroid isn’t working optimally, it can affect your entire body and life.
When your thyroid makes more thyroid hormone than your body needs, you might experience a fast heartbeat, rapid weight loss, anxiety and irritability, trouble sleeping, excess sweating, and fewer or lighter periods than normal. This is known as hyperthyroidism.
On the other hand, hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, has side effects that include fatigue, weight gain, inability to tolerate cold temperatures, joint and muscle pain as well as weakness, pale and dry skin, and heavier periods.
About 1 in every 8 women will experience thyroid issues, and they are more prevalent shortly after giving birth and during menopause. These issues can delay or accelerate puberty and increase the odds of early menopause, lead to fertility issues and affect your periods, so diagnosis is important—especially when the symptoms can mirror menopause and depression, for example.
“Thyroid issues are more common in middle age but they can happen at any time, which is why it’s so important to pay attention to your body and how you’re feeling during pregnancy, postpartum, in menopause and throughout your life,” said Dr. David Clay. “The good news is that most issues are relatively easy to treat.”
While there is no way to prevent thyroid disease, regular physicals and discussion with your doctor can help you manage symptoms and get tested as needed. Most conditions can be treated with medication and monitoring; sometimes surgery is required.
Other related issues include thyroid nodules, a growth that is usually benign but can be a sign of thyroid cancer, and Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that stops the thyroid from producing hormones and leads to hypothyroidism.