January marks National Thyroid Awareness Month. The goal of this movement is to increase awareness around thyroid diseases as well as prevention, treatment, and cure. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. The function of the thyroid is to produce thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to the body tissue. These hormones help the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as normal.
There are two main thyroid diseases: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism refers to a condition in which thyroid hormones are being over-produced in the body. The most common form of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ Disease, also known as Basedow’s Disease, an autoimmune disease that leads to a generalized overactive thyroid gland. The disease receives its name from Robert Graves, an Irish physician, who described this form of hyperthyroidism more than a century ago. According to The American Thyroid Association, Graves’ Disease is 7-8 times more common in women than in men. Hyperthyroidism can cause the allusion of enlarged eyes due to upper lids being elevated, or bulging eyes (sometimes one or both), and it can also cause the swelling of the front of the neck due to the enlarged thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism refers to a condition in which thyroid hormones are being under-produced in the body. A common cause of this condition is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which involves the surgical removal of the thyroid and radiation treatment. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism are feeling cold, fatigue, dry skin, forgetfulness, and depression. The American Thyroid Association states that because the symptoms vary from person to person, the only sure way to know you have hypothyroidism is with a blood test. Currently, there is no cure for hypothyroidism. However, The American Thyroid Association says that many patients who are diagnosed return to normal.
There are four types of thyroid cancer: 1) papillary; 2) follicular; 3) medullary 4) and anaplastic. Papillary thyroid cancer is the most common type of all thyroid cancers. In fact, this type makes up about 70% to 80% of thyroid cancers. Papillary thyroid cancer can occur at any age. This cancer grows slowly and spreads to the lymph nodes in the neck. In general, it has an excellent outlook. Significantly less that papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer makes up about 10% of all thyroid cancers. This type of cancer also spreads to the lymph nodes in the neck, but it can also spread to the lungs and bones. Medullary thyroid cancer makes up about 2% of thyroid cancers. Approximately 25% of all medullary thyroid cancer is inherited. The last thyroid cancer is anaplastic which is considered to be the most advanced and aggressive of the four. This type is very rare and is found in less than 2% of patients with this type of cancer. The most common form of treatment for all of these different types of thyroid cancer is surgery, but depending on the circumstances, iodine therapy is an option as well. For more information on the thyroid and its various conditions, please visit the official website of the The American Thyroid Association.
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About The Author
Segan Falconer earned a B.A. degree in English from Colorado State University-Pueblo. She is experienced in content writing, grant writing, and press release writing and currently works as the Human Resources Assistant at Voyager Home Health Care.
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