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Doctor showing patient test resultsYou’ve probably not given it much thought or even realized it was there, but your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck. It may be tiny, but it’s a powerful force in your body that produces vital hormones.

The hormones secreted by the thyroid affect nearly every system in your body, including your kidneys, and when your thyroid isn’t working normally, your health may suffer. Women are more likely to suffer from thyroid issues, with nearly one in eight women developing a thyroid problem in her lifetime, especially after pregnancy or menopause.

Thyroid disorders have different symptoms that gradually grow in intensity. It may take several months of symptoms before you begin to realize that there may be an issue. Watch out for:

  • Increased anxiety or nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Lowered ability to concentrate
  • Irregular periods
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sensitivity to heat or consistently cold
  • Bowel movement changes
  • Dry, itchy, or thin skin and changes in nails
  • Brittle hair or hair loss
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue

These symptoms could be a sign of a thyroid issue. Some people have several symptoms, others only a few. In either case, several disorders can stem from problems with this gland. Here are two common ones:

  • Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormones. Symptoms may include fatigue, irritability, sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, nail issues, dizziness and/or weight gain. Vital functions in the body may slow down.
  • Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. Symptoms can include rapid/irregular heartbeat, unintentional weight loss, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and irritability. Vital functions in the body may speed up.

Thyroid problems are more common as we age. According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. Thyroid problems can be difficult to detect initially, and it can take months of consistent struggle before patients seek treatment from a physician. But there are treatment plans available that can help successfully address thyroid issues and help address the set of symptoms that go along with either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. If you think you may have a thyroid issue, make an appointment to see your physician.

If you have a thyroid issue, taking any medication as directed is especially important. Regular checkups and following any guidance from a physician is also critical. Carefully monitoring your thyroid health throughout your life is an excellent way to stay healthy, especially for women.