woman checking thyroid for problems

While these figures might startle you, many thyroid conditions are easily manageable through medical treatment. Since September is Thyroid Awareness Month, we've put together some helpful information for you about the thyroid. We'll tell you what it is and many common symptoms or signs that you may have a thyroid disorder. 

What is the thyroid? 


The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck, in the front, that provides thyroid hormones to your body. These hormones serve many valuable functions, such as regulating the body's metabolism. Critical body functions, such as energy levels and heart rate, are directly affected by the thyroid gland. Every part of your body benefits from a properly functioning and healthy thyroid. If there are problems, however, your body might be exhibiting a few symptoms related to energy and vitality. 


Common thyroid disorders


Many things cause thyroid disorders, such as existing autoimmune disorders, surgeries, and certain medications. It's also possible that damage to the pituitary gland can impact whether or not people experience thyroid disorders. The pituitary gland essentially tells other glands within the body what to produce and how much.


In a few cases, people are born with rare, genetic diseases that affect thyroid performance. 




If your thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone, it is called hypothyroidism. "Hypo" is a prefix that means "under." In the simplest terms, hypothyroidism means that your thyroid is under-functioning. Fatigue, depression, and weight gain are all common symptoms of hypothyroidism.


Forgetfulness, sluggishness, and other cognitive issues can also be a result of hypothyroidism.




If "hypo" means "under," you might be able to guess the meaning of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is essentially an overactive thyroid condition in which the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. "Hyper" means "over," therefore, over-production is involved.  


People who experience symptoms such as irritability, unexplained weight loss, or vision issues might be suffering from hyperthyroidism. Other signs of this condition include nervousness, weakness, and sleep disturbances. 


Graves' disease


Another form of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease. Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that is genetic and relatively rare. Only an estimated 1% of the U.S. population is affected by Graves' disease. With this disorder, your body's immune system "attacks" the thyroid gland, causing it to produce too much of the thyroid hormone. 




Goiter is a general term of a swollen thyroid, typically caused by an iodine deficiency or other thyroid production issues. It can also represent a condition associated with Hashimoto's disease. 


Hashimoto's disease


Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the thyroid gland. More commonly found in women, Hashimoto's disease can cause fertility issues. It is treatable with medicine, but symptoms are related to hypothyroidism and include fatigue and weight gain. 


When should I see a doctor about my thyroid issues? 


If you suspect a thyroid disorder is affecting your abilities to live a full, energetic life, you should make an appointment with your doctor. They will conduct bloodwork and other tests to check how your thyroid is performing. After testing and obtaining a patient's medical and family history, a doctor will make their diagnosis. 


September is Thyroid Awareness Month


As we get through the warm (and final) weeks of summer, transitioning into fall, it's a great time to check in with yourself to see how you're feeling. Since September is Thyroid Awareness Month, be on the lookout for any changes in your energy levels or unexplained weight gain or loss. Likewise, watch for any other signs that your thyroid isn't functioning correctly, as mentioned above. 


Have any questions about your thyroid or other health issues? Contact us today. We'll be glad to help. 


Call our physician referral line at 205-996-WEST to schedule an appointment with a UAB Medical West provider. We are here to serve the communities of Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance, and more!