January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Your thyroid plays a role in important functions throughout the body. It may be small, but when something goes wrong, it can be a big problem. Dr. Betul Hatipoglu is a Thyroid expert at Cleveland Clinic. She says anyone can have a thyroid problem but it's more common in women.
"eight times more common in women. A lot of the thyroid problems, including thyroid cancer which we have seen an increase in the last few decades is more common in women than in men."
Under active thyroid, or hypothyroidism, where too little thyroid hormone is produced, is the most common thyroid disorder. Symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, depression and even constipation. The disorder is easy to treat with medication and easy to screen for.
"A simple blood test can be done. The results will come fast and you will have your answer. So if you have any suspicion, it’s really all about going and asking your physician, can I have a blood test for my thyroid because I feel something is not right."
The opposite can also occur where the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, this is known as hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid. It's a little more complex and treatment may include medication, radioactive iodine or even surgery to remove the thyroid.
"Women tend to ignore the hyperthyroid symptoms because they like that they are losing weight but in the long run it has damaging effect to the body so if you’re losing weight without explanation, you’re feeling nervous, anxious, you have some hand shakes that you can’t explain why, again hair loss maybe, excessive sweating, those could be signs that something is wrong with your thyroid."
Dr. Hatipoglu says if you see or feel a lump in your throat when you swallow or your doctor feels a growth or nodule on your thyroid it should be checked with an ultrasound to rule out thyroid cancer.