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Every year, the 25th May is World Thyroid Day; an international event for raising awareness of what the thyroid gland does, what different thyroid diseases there are and symptoms of them, the importance of diagnosis and treatment, but also the many things that we face as thyroid patients.
Also, around 8 times more women are affected by thyroid disease than men, with key triggers being puberty, pregnancy and the menopause.
Could you or a friend or family member have a thyroid condition?
With these numbers, we have to keep encouraging anyone with symptoms of a thyroid condition to get it checked out with a full thyroid panel (also called a ‘thyroid function test). This includes TSH, Free T3, Free T4, thyroid peroxidase antibodies and thyroglobulin antibodies.
Please note that many doctors only test TSH levels, but this isn’t accurate on its own as it doesn’t present the full picture of your thyroid health.
What is The Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland, located in the neck, is responsible for producing hormones needed for many bodily functions and processes. The main one is metabolic function. When thyroid hormone levels aren’t right, symptoms such as weight fluctuations, sensitivities to heat and cold, fatigue, hair loss, mental health conditions (such as depression and anxiety), dry skin and brittle nails can occur.
Symptoms of a Thyroid Condition
- longterm fatigue
- muscle aches and pains
- sensitivity to cold
- weight gain
- sleep disturbances
- low libido
- dry skin, hair and nails
- feeling overall quite unwell
Symptoms for hyperthyroidism can include:
- heart palpitations
- unexplained weight loss
- hot flushes
- sensitivity to heat.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer may include:
- neck pain
- a hoarse voice
- enlarged lymph nodes
Symptoms of autoimmune thyroid disease (such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’) can include those mentioned above, including swinging test results and symptoms e.g. going through periods of better and worse health.
Although the thyroid gland is responsible for delivering crucial hormones that are needed for every function and cell of the body, a large percentage of the world’s population doesn’t know just how important this little gland is and what signs and symptoms to be looking for, as well as what tests they may need to ask their doctor about. This is why an awareness event can be so useful!
The Importance of Diagnosis and Treatment
When a thyroid condition goes undiagnosed and untreated, many symptoms can persist and mount up. I had over twenty separate symptoms before my hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s were diagnosed and treated.
There are many people living with the effects of an undiagnosed thyroid condition who could be healthier and happier once treated.
The American College of Thyroidology
This World Thyroid Day, something exciting is also launching: The American College of Thyroidology (ACT)!
ACT believes that thyroid care needs to improve and that the best path to recovery from thyroid issues combines both conventional and lifestyle medicine in one unified approach. ACT believes that personalised patient care should be driven by both scientific evidence and clinical experience. ACT will educate and train the next generation of thyroid medical professionals to help us attain this mission.
It is no secret that thyroid care needs to improve. Too many people remain undiagnosed. Too many of those who are diagnosed have unresolved symptoms. We need to find better answers and we need to do a better job sharing the answers we do have.
As a founding board member for ACT, I am so excited to be involved in ensuring more doctors are thyroid literate and approach thyroid diseases with a holistic point of view.
Why World Thyroid Day is Useful
For those of us already diagnosed with a thyroid condition, we can gain awareness this World Thyroid Day about how to check our necks regularly for any abnormalities, what we can do to live well and which tests to have run.
We can also be aware of what results to look for, as many thyroid patients are still having ongoing symptoms.
I also encourage all thyroid patients to be their own health advocate and be an active participant in their own health and wellbeing. This includes understanding their thyroid condition.
As well as educating those around us on this butterfly-shaped gland, we should also take the time to educate ourselves! After all, knowledge is power and learning to advocate for ourselves gives us the best chance of recovering our health back to a good standard. See a list of thyroid websites here and some books here.
My book “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” also compiles all the information you need to begin advocating for your own health, in one place and in an easy to digest format.
World Thyroid Day is all about creating awareness of thyroid disease and disorders as a whole – for those going undiagnosed, those needing a review of their treatment and for those who feel good on their thyroid treatment, but can always learn some more and help spread awareness so that those who aren’t yet diagnosed, can be.
Are you going to help raise awareness this World Thyroid Day? Let me know in the comments below.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.