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Thyroid Disease: Risk Factors and Signs

Your thyroid is small but mighty. It’s situated at the base of your throat, and it’s largely responsible for your body’s metabolism, though it’s also involved in other processes. Thyroid problems are incredibly common. 

Often, thyroid disease is a chronic, or ongoing, condition. At ALON Family Health, our staff of experts is experienced in helping patients manage chronic disease, including thyroid problems. When your condition is well-managed, you can live a comfortable, healthy life, but ignoring problems with your thyroid can lead to worsening health. 

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism

There’s no single type of thyroid disease, but rather several different conditions that fall under that description. The two most common are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. 

Your thyroid produces two hormones, T3 and T4. If it produces too much or too little of either of them, you have either hyper- or hypothyroidism, as do about 20 million other Americans. 

Hyperthyroidism

If your thyroid overproduces hormones, you have hyperthyroidism. A condition called Graves’ disease can cause hyperthyroidism, as can a single overactive nodule in your thyroid and a condition called thyroiditis, or the overconsumption of iodine. 

When you have too much thyroid hormone in your body, you may feel nervous, weak, sensitive to heat, or you could experience unexplained weight loss, have problems with your vision, or difficulty sleeping. 

Your heart rate may also be faster than normal, and you may have an increased appetite. Hyperthyroidism gives your body too much energy. 

Hypothyroidism

When your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough T3 and T4, you have hypothyroidism, which is more common. Thyroiditis can cause hypothyroidism, as can Hashimoto’s disease, and an iodine deficiency. 

When you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, you are likely to feel very tired, you may gain weight, your skin may be excessively dry, your voice may be hoarse, and you might not be able to tolerate cold. 

Risk factors for thyroid disease

Women are five to eight times more likely to develop thyroid disease than men. Other factors that increase your risk of thyroid disease include: 

If you have thyroid disease and you leave it untreated, you’re at risk of complications. For example, thyroid disease can lead to infertility or cause damage to the nerves in your arms or legs, which is called peripheral neuropathy. 

Treating thyroid disease

In general, it’s easier to manage hypothyroidism than hyperthyroidism. For hypothyroidism, the first-line treatment is a drug called levothyroxine, which is synthetic thyroid hormone. 

Hyperthyroidism is more difficult to treat. Our staff may recommend drugs to help lower production of T3 and T4, or they may recommend removing your thyroid, then prescribing levothyroxine to replace your missing hormones. 

Thyroid disease isn’t a condition you can prevent through lifestyle choices, and though it’s important to follow an appropriate diet and to get enough exercise when you have thyroid disease, those actions won’t improve your thyroid disease. 

If you’d like to learn more about thyroid disease and discuss your risk factors and treatment options, book an appointment at ALON Family Health in San Antonio, Texas, today. You can easily schedule online at any time, or you’re welcome to call us at 210-384-1195 and we’ll be glad to book your appointment.

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