Photo: Dr. Iftikhar Malik
January 15, 2019
JANUARY IS NATIONAL THYROID AWARENESS MONTH
Knowing Symptoms of Thyroid Problems Can Lead to Early Treatment
NEENAH, Wis. – A small butterfly-shaped gland in our throats, the thyroid, is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism, and when it’s not functioning properly, it can cause health problems. According to the American Thyroid Association, up to 60 percent of people with a thyroid problem may not be aware of what’s causing their symptoms.
“It’s important that patients are aware of symptoms associated with thyroid issues,” said Dr. Iftikhar Malik, an endocrinologist with ThedaCare Physicians Endocrinology-Neenah. “Then they can begin conversations with their provider, to help find a solution.”
The thyroid produces three hormones. Two of these hormones regulate the body’s metabolism, as well as build protein and muscles. If someone has a hypothyroid condition—an underactive thyroid—they may have symptoms such as an overall feeling of tiredness, sluggishness, mind fogginess and possibly hair loss, according to Dr. Malik.
“Definitely, most people who are hypothyroid can gain weight,” Dr. Malik said. “By contrast, if the hormones are overproducing, it acts as a stimulant to the muscle and heart and nervous systems.”
Dr. Malik explained that if someone has a hyperthyroid condition—or an overactive thyroid—they might feel nervous, warm, have a racing heart, sweat a lot and are likely losing weight. An overactive thyroid can lead to serious health issues including cardiac arrhythmia and a greater chance of stroke.
Thyroid conditions can be genetic, caused by antibodies made in the body or by the presence of overactive lumps in the thyroid. Additionally, people who have undergone radiation treatment may develop a thyroid condition, Dr. Malik said. The popular low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets also can impact the production of thyroid hormones, particularly when the body is saturated by nutrients from foods like cabbage and soy.
A few common conditions of the thyroid include:
- Graves’ disease: Symptoms are those of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), in which the patient may experience inflammation of the thyroid gland. The patient also may have an inflammation of tissue around the eyes that causes a bulging appearance.
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: This condition also causes an inflammation of the thyroid gland, leading to symptoms of hyperthyroidism. It is an autoimmune condition in which antibodies attack a thyroid enzyme. It can eventually cause a decline in the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones, leading to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). It can cause complications in pregnancy or difficulty in becoming pregnant.
- Thyroid cancer: There are different types of thyroid cancer, but the most common is the slow-growing papillary thyroid cancer, which generally has a very strong outlook, particularly when it occurs in people younger than 45. The American Thyroid Association says about 64,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year, compared with 240,000 breast cancer cases.
Talking to your primary care physician about any symptoms you may be having can lead to early detection of thyroid issues. There are simple blood tests that can screen thyroid hormone function and help detect problems that may be present before they become serious.
“Primary care providers can screen patients for thyroid dysfunction right in their offices, and based on their hormone levels, a follow-up or referral can be made,” said Dr. Malik.
According to Dr. Malik, most thyroid issues can be treated either with medication, radioactive iodine treatment, surgery or a combination of those treatments.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.
Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.