Icyou's Medical Editor, Mona Khanna, MD, MPH, talks about some of the most common thyroid conditions as well as their risk factors.
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The thyroid is a gland that's found right here in your neck and what that gland does is it releases hormones, that it regulate hormones and those hormones help our metabolism, they help our energy, they help our growth and this is all done, it's all mediated through chemical substances. There can be many different things happening with the thyroid, it can be overworking, it can be under-working or it can be not working at all. So let's talk very specifically about when the thyroid doesn't work well enough. This is a condition that's highly prevalent in women, it's called hypothyroidism, hypo meaning of course less. It's not working as well as it should. Some of the signs and symptoms for hypothyroidism are a woman may feel constipated. She may feel weak. She may get cold very easily. She may have carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrist. She may start to gain weight. Have dry skin, be depressed. All of these things can help pinpoint the diagnosis to hypothyroidism. Some of the risk factors of developing a thyroid abnormality are smoking, a personal history or family history of thyroid problems, women are the vast majority of who have thyroid problems particularly hypothyroidism. Age is an important factor as well and it usually happens over the age of 50. If you've had radiation exposure to this part of your body, you are at higher risk of developing a thyroid problem and we have had people who in the past had Hodgkin's disease. Hodgkin's disease is where there is a tumor in this area and unfortunately the radiation wasn't completely focused and it actually went up here and those people have thyroid problem. If you have either excess or not enough iodine intake, that can lead to a thyroid problem. So all of these things taken as a whole can affect your thyroid and the thyroid is a very sensitive gland. So unfortunately, like I said if you'd cancer radiation treatment or if you have some of these other issues you can have thyroid problems. There is a really simple way to screen for thyroid abnormalities and that's with a blood test. We can check the thyroid stimulating hormone which is kind of the main element that we check to look for thyroid abnormalities, then we can also check the thyroid hormones themselves. The other way of doing it is do a scan of the thyroid and that scan will be done radioactively and also an ultrasound. You are familiar with ultrasounds when they were done for pregnant women, we can do an ultrasound of the thyroid, especially look for a little nodules and if we do find a nodule, we can put a needle on the nodule and aspirate or remove a number of cells, to look at those cells under the microscope, that is another diagnostic test called fine needle aspiration. Last of all another blood test that we could do, would be to check for antibodies, especially if somebody is hypothyroid, because they could look for antibodies that are attacking the thyroid and causing it not to work as well. The way you would treat a thyroid abnormality is either through medications, which is the most common way. You could also ablate the thyroid with radioactivity that is basically render it completely useless and then after you do that since you do need some other thyroid stimulation you would actually give somebody a thyroid medication to help regulate their body's metabolism. But the main state of treatment in thyroid abnormalities is really medication. In some cases of thyroid cancer of course it can be removed surgically.