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Thyroid Disease Affects Millions

Thyroid disease affects more than 20 million Americans, but many people are undiagnosed
Thyroid disease affects more than 20 million Americans, but many people are undiagnosed. Today, Katherine Bialka, physician assistant with Mount Nittany Physician Group’s endocrinology practice, is here to talk about different types of thyroid disease to help you better understand the disease and the related symptoms.

• What does the thyroid do?

The thyroid gland is located in the front of your neck, just below your larynx. The gland consists of two lobes, one on each side of the windpipe and is connected in the middle – looking like a butterfly shape.

The role of the thyroid gland is to produce a hormone that helps regulate your body’s metabolism. This hormone affects how the body uses energy, which includes how fast your heart beats, how fast you digest food and how the fast the body burns calories. Therefore, when the thyroid gland is too active or not active enough, it will ultimately throw off your body functions.

• What happens when the thyroid is too active?

When the thyroid is too active, it makes more thyroid hormone than your body needs. This is a type of thyroid disease called hyperthyroidism.

When you have too much thyroid hormone, it is essentially accelerating your body’s metabolism. Hyperthyroidism can make you lose weight suddenly (even when your appetite and the amount of food you eat remain the same), speed up your heart rate and make you very sensitive to the heat. Other symptoms may include sweating, nervousness or anxiety, frequent bowel movements and fatigue.

• Is anyone at a greater risk of developing hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism tends to run in families and is more common in women than in men. If a family member has a thyroid condition, it’s important to talk to your physician about being screened for the disease. Also, a number of conditions, including Graves’ disease, toxic adenoma and thyroiditis, can cause hyperthyroidism.


• What happens when your thyroid gland is not active enough?

Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormone, making you have an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism.

Since hypothyroidism slows down the body’s metabolism, symptoms can include fatigue, unexplained weight gain, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, hoarseness, muscle weakness and muscle stiffness.

• What are the risk factors of developing hypothyroidism?

While anyone can develop hypothyroidism, people run a greater risk if they:
o Are a woman older than 50
o Have an autoimmune disease
o Have a close relative with an autoimmune disease or thyroid disease
o Received radiation to the neck or upper chest
o Have had thyroid surgery


• Are there treatment options for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism?

There are different types of treatment options for both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. It’s important to speak with your physician to find the best approach for you.


If you have any signs of thyroid disease, it’s important to talk with your physician. You can call Mount Nittany Physician Group’s endocrinology practice at 814.689.3156 or visit mountnittany.org for more information.

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