Doctor examining patient's thyroid

January is Thyroid Awareness Month: What you need to know

Each January, Thyroid Awareness Month offers an opportunity to bring awareness to a concern that can be very hard to swallow. The cause for concern is thyroid conditions, which few people even know about, even those who may currently have one. According to the American Thyroid Association, thyroid conditions affect around 20 million Americans, yet two-thirds of those with the disorder are completely unaware. This is why efforts like Thyroid Awareness Month are essential to your health and well-being. While there are many thyroid conditions, ranging from mild and manageable to serious, like thyroid cancer, awareness is the first step to reducing risk and avoiding their potentially lasting effects. For Thyroid Awareness Month 2021, discover more about the signs and symptoms of these disorders to protect yourself and prevent them from becoming a pain in the neck.

What is your thyroid and why is it so important?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found in the middle of your lower neck. Although this gland is very small, it has a large effect on your physical health and mental well-being. It produces thyroid hormones, which are important because they have several vital roles that impact how you feel and function. If your thyroid fails to produce these hormones properly, you will develop a hormonal imbalance that affects your metabolism, weight, body temperature, heart rate, energy, appearance, and mental well-being. Fortunately, each January, Thyroid Awareness Month shows people that these issues aren’t just in their heads, but they’re actually in their hormones.

Who is most at risk?

While a thyroid disorder can affect anyone at any time, women are especially vulnerable. In fact, women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience a thyroid issue. And one in eight of these women will develop a full-fledged thyroid condition at some point during her lifetime. National Thyroid Awareness Month creates attention to the dangers of these disorders and leads to nationwide action.

What are the symptoms of a thyroid condition?

While symptoms are usually the first sign that you may have a thyroid condition, that’s not always the case. The symptoms can be subtle, and many people don’t even notice them at all. This is why everyone should make Thyroid Awareness Month 2021 the beginning of annual thyroid screenings to put an end to undetected thyroid concerns. If left untreated, you could face many serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and infertility. So be on the lookout all year long for any of the following signs of thyroid trouble:

  • Your weight has changed yet your habits have stayed the same
  • Your hair is thinning or brittle
  • You’re constantly tired and weak
  • You’re feeling anxious, nervous, or generally miserable
  • You have mood swings
  • You have difficulty sleeping
  • You’re always hot or cold, regardless of the temperature
  • You’re always thirsty
  • Your face looks puffy

What are the most common thyroid conditions?

There are three main thyroid problems that are primarily hormone production issues. If your body produces too little thyroid hormone, you may develop a condition known as hypothyroidism. If your body makes too much, then you may face hyperthyroidism. Thyroid Awareness Month brings attention to a third thyroid condition that’s as much of a problem and priority, which is thyroid cancer. As one of the fastest-growing cancers and the fifth most common in women, thyroid cancer occurs when thyroid cells grow and multiply far too quickly. This forms tumors that can spread potentially cancerous cells throughout the body. If detected early, thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable kinds of cancer. While the causes of thyroid conditions are largely unknown, they may be attributed to autoimmune, genetic, or environmental factors.

Are there any treatments for thyroid conditions?

Today, doctors are able to diagnose thyroid conditions at a very early stage—sometimes even before any symptoms are noticed. These conditions can quickly and easily be detected by blood tests that measure your levels of thyroid hormones. Your treatment will depend on the thyroid condition you are facing. The most common treatments for hyperthyroidism are medication or radioactive iodine treatment to restore your normal hormone levels and reverse any adverse symptoms. If you’re experiencing hypothyroidism, treatment involves taking thyroid hormone replacement for the rest of your life, with your dosage possibly being adjusted over time. And most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. Many of these promising treatments are the result of the research and recognition raised by Thyroid Awareness Month.

Early detection is your best defense against thyroid problems. Since the problem is one that is national, Thyroid Awareness Month kicks off the year by spreading the word throughout the U.S. about the importance of being aware of the symptoms of thyroid conditions and having regular screenings that could possibly save your life. Visit your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor for your 2021 thyroid screening.