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Thyroid disease: Tuning into the subtle signs
What the thyroid does
Knowing the signs
Controlling the gland

Give yourself the thyroid neck check
Give yourself the thyroid neck check

All you will need is:
• A glass of water
• A handheld mirror

  1. Hold the mirror in your hand, focusing on the area of your neck just below the Adam’s apple and immediately above the collarbone. Your thyroid gland is located in this area of your neck.
  2. While focusing on this area in the mirror, tip your head back.
  3. Take a drink of water and swallow.
  4. As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or a protrusion in this area when you swallow. Reminder: Don’t confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located further down on your neck, closer to the collarbone. You may want to repeat this process several times.
  5. If you do see any bulges or protrusions in this area, see your doctor immediately. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or thyroid nodule and should be checked to determine whether cancer is present or if treatment for thyroid disease is needed.

Sometimes serious conditions produce vague symptoms that may be easy to ignore. For example, you may not think dry skin is reason enough to see your doctor, but it could indicate thyroid disease.

What the thyroid does

Located in the front of your neck, the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland produces hormones that help set the pace for various bodily functions, including metabolism, heart rate and body temperature. If the thyroid creates too many (hyperthyroidism) or too few (hypothyroidism) hormones, the body’s systems are thrown off balance.

Knowing the signs

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • weight loss
  • restlessness and anxiety
  • rapid heartbeat
  • trouble sleeping
  • tremor
  • shortness of breath

Hypothyroidism causes symptoms that are often mistaken for menopause or “normal” signs of aging, such as:

  • constipation
  • dry, thick, puffy skin
  • muscle weakness or fatigue
  • slow thinking
  • weak, slow heartbeat
  • high LDL cholesterol levels

Controlling the gland

To treat hypothyroidism, the missing hormone is taken in pill form, usually for life.

Hyperthyroidism may be treated with a liquid form of radioactive iodine that causes the gland to slow hormone production. Sometimes thyroid hormone replacement is required following iodine treatment. Anti-thyroid pills are another option. In rare instances, surgery may be necessary. In any case, close monitoring by a physician is necessary to ensure balanced hormone levels.