thyroid disease?

Most people know that the most effective way to lose weight is through a low-calorie  diet and increased exercise. When those lifestyle changes don’t seem to be making a dent in the waistline, a logical question is, “Could this be a case of an underactive thyroid?”

This butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck plays a role in the function of nearly every system of the body through the creation of thyroid hormones, and is also heavily involved in metabolism—the process by which the body converts food into energy. Produce too little thyroid hormone (triiodothyronine and thyroxine), and your metabolism slows down, leading to fewer calories burned and, for some people, extra pounds. But it’s important to understand the real impact.

An underactive thyroid is usually not responsible for as much extra weight as people think or—in some cases—hope. Hypothyroidism can contribute to an extra five to ten pounds on average. However, unless the weight gain comes with other symptoms, it’s probably not a thyroid problem, according to the American Thyroid Association, and you may have to ramp up activity and further refine your diet.

Know the Symptoms
Thyroid function impacts heart rate, breathing, mood, digestion as well as your skin, so symptoms that it is not functioning properly can really run the gamut, and can be vague. In addition to changes in weight, symptoms of an improperly functioning thyroid may include:
• Changes to your skin and general appearance. Your face is puffy or your skin is dry or irritated.
• Mood swings, feeling tired or depressed, anxious or nervous
• Feeling too hot or too cold, especially in the toes and fingers
• Menstrual cycles that are irregular or heavy
• Thinning hair
• Muscle tenderness, stiffness or aches
• Memory issues
• Constipation

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The thyroid can also produce too much hormone—called hyperthyroidism, which may lead to weight loss. But 30 percent of patients with hyperthyroidism will experience weight gain, too. There is even some evidence that viruses, including COVID-19, can inflame the thyroid, leading to issues, but more data is needed to confirm that connection.

Who is at risk?
Thyroid issues tend to increase with age, although the exact connection is unclear. One in eight women will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime—far more than men—and women over 60 are more likely to develop thyroid issues. Risk factors for developing thyroid problems include:
• Family history of thyroid disease
• Previous thyroid issues, such as a goiter
• Surgery to correct a thyroid problem
• Radiation treatment to the thyroid, neck or chest
• Type 1 diabetes
• Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus

If you feel off and are not really sure what the cause is, ruling out the function of the thyroid is pretty simple to do through bloodwork. Consulting with an endocrinologist is the best way to get to the bottom of the issue and determine the best course of treatment.

In addition, most primary care physicians will include thyroid function tests as part of routine bloodwork, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with your annual well visit to detect any changes in thyroid function, and to alert your physician if any new or unusual symptoms arise. Should an issue be determined, an overactive or underactive thyroid and the associated symptoms are easy to treat with medication.


{White Plains Hospital}

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