Thyroid conditions affect as many as 20% of American adults. Since they are caused by immune reactions to environmental toxins, they are getting more and more common each year.
Men and women are both candidates for thyroid conditions, but women get it 8 times as often as men do. It can happen at any age, but each decade you live, the more common it gets. By age 80, upwards of 27% of adults can develop thyroid issues. It can also come on during times of life when hormone levels change for women. The beginning of menstrual cycles, perimenopause and menopause are other common times thyroid issues can start.
All thyroid conditions are driven by immune reactions but they can manifest in very different ways. Abnormal thyroid health can manifest as an overactive thyroid, which is called hyperthyroidism. An under-active thyroid is called hypothyroidism or thyroid cancer.
To maintain thyroid health it is important to routinely test thyroid blood levels but also have thyroid exams done each year by your physician. Self-exams are also recommended to catch any thyroid conditions at the earliest stages possible. These are easy to do and can be done the same time as your breast or testicular exams. To do a thyroid self-exam, feel your neck for any lumps or bumps, and watch your neck in a mirror as you drink a glass of water. If you see any unusual differences on one side over the other, bring them to the attention of your physician.
Thankfully thyroid issues can be managed well, especially when diagnosed early. If ever you suspect your thyroid is not working well, be sure to get thoroughly checked. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion if your doctor dismisses you too easily. Thyroid health is critical and not all doctors are able to detect it at the earliest stages.