“Thyroid Awareness Month: What you need to know”

NORFOLK, VA – January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and News 3 This Morning is taking action to explain the signs and symptoms of the disease with medical expert Dr. Ryan Light.

News 3: How common is thyroid disease?

Dr. Light:  The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control your body metabolism. Thyroid disease is very common, affecting as many as 30 million Americans.  More than half of the affected people remain undiagnosed. Women are five times more likely than men to have hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism increases with age.

News 3: How does your thyroid gland affect your metabolism?

Dr. Light: The thyroid gland produces a chemical called thyroxine.  This hormone controls the metabolism of all the cells in your body. If the thyroid gland malfunctions, it can either produce too much thyroid hormone or not enough. If the gland produces too much, he body’s metabolism will speed up (hyperthyroidism).  If it produces too little, the body will slow down (hypothyroidism).

News 3: What are the warning signs?

Dr. Light: 

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Feeling to hot or cold
  • Changes in energy or mood
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Irregular menstrual period

News 3: When should you get tested?

Dr. Light:  If you think you have any of the warning signs of a thyroid disorder, talk to your doctor about being tested. People with symptoms or risk factors may need tests more often. Some of the common risk factors are age, gender, medications, smoking history, surgery, and radiation therapy.

News 3:  How do you differentiate thyroid problems from other health conditions?

Dr. Light:  If you or your doctor suspects a thyroid disorder, a simple blood test can be performed. The test will measure the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), the thyroid stimulating hormone regulates the function of the thyroid gland. If TSH is high, this means that your thyroid function is too low (hypothyroid). If TSH is low, this means the thyroid is overactive