Feeling anxious, tired, or too hot or cold could be the result of thyroid disease, warn University doctors, who recently issued an advisory on the illness. While symptoms can imitate those of other conditions, endocrinologists recommend that men and women have their thyroid periodically examined during health check-ups.
The thyroid is a small gland located in the neck that produces a hormone that controls the body’s metabolic system and organ functions.
“It’s kind of like the thermostat of the body,” endocrinologist Robert Lash said. “If it’s too high, you may feel too hot or anxious and if it’s too low, you may feel cold, tired, experience irregular menstruation, put on weight or just don’t feel as sharp.”
Thyroid disease is fairly common in the United States, affecting between 10 to 14 million women and 2 to 3 million men.
The most common type of thyroid disease is hypothyroidism, in which thyroid hormone levels are lower than normal. While symptoms don’t usually develop until later in life, certain factors can increase the risk of developing low levels of thyroid hormone.
“I think that what college students should know is that there is an increased risk to develop low thyroid hormone if they have a family history and if they have diabetes type one – insulin dependent,” pediatrician and endocrinologist Delia Vazquez said. “For example, approximately one out of four insulin dependent diabetics develop autoimmune hypothyroidism.”
Doctors have also linked low thyroid hormone levels with high cholesterol in both men and women. Studies show that cholesterol levels may go down when thyroid hormone levels are corrected.
Although much less common, the thyroid can also become overactive in a condition called hyperthyroidism. This disease speeds up the metabolism and may cause people to feel irritable, weak and hot. “The thyroid fails gradually over years, so people don’t always notice the changes or they attribute them to aging,” Lash said.
Diagnosing thyroid disease consists of a blood test to measure the amounts of thyroid stimulating hormone. Lash said the test is simple, easy to interpret and relatively inexpensive. He added that after diagnoses, there are several successful treatment options for thyroid diseases including medication and surgery that correct the problem relatively quickly.
“For college age people, routine checking is not necessary unless they notice symptoms,” Lash said. “Older people should probably be checked every five years or so, but for younger people, once every ten years is sufficient.”