Why does the doctor always feel my neck when I come in for a visit?
Well, it is likely that your doctor is feeling your thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is located in the front lower part of your neck. Hormones released by the gland travel through your bloodstream and affect nearly every part of your body, from your heart and brain, to your muscles and skin.
The thyroid controls how your body’s cells use energy from food, a process known as metabolism. Among other things, your metabolism affects your body’s temperature, your heartbeat, and how well you burn calories.
Two common disorders relating to the thyroid are hyper thyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is overactive and produces too much of a hormone called thyroxine. It can speed up your metabolism significantly and cause unpleasant signs and symptoms such as:
- Feeling nervous, anxious, or irritable
- Experiencing mood swings
- Feeling very tired or weak
- Sensitivity to heat
- An enlarged thyroid, also known as a goiter (This can make the base of your neck look swollen)
- Losing weight suddenly with no known cause
- Fast or irregular heartbeat or palpitations (pounding heart)
- Increased frequency in your bowel movements
- Shaking in your hands and fingers (tremor)
- Sleep problems
- Thinning skin
- Changes in your hair that make it fine and brittle
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
It is important to note that these signs and symptoms are less likely to show up if you’re an older adult, but sometimes there will be subtle symptoms. These can include a faster heart rate or you could be more sensitive to hot temperatures. Or you could just feel more tired than usual from everyday activities.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. This is also called underactive thyroid disease and is a common disorder. If you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, your body processes slow down. That means your body makes less energy, and your metabolism becomes sluggish.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include the following:
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Dry hair and hair loss
- Dry skin
- Greater sensitivity to cold
- Slow heart rate
- Swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter)
- Unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Symptoms of hypothyroidism can be vague and can often mimic other conditions. It is important to note any signs and symptoms you may be experiencing and consult with your physician.
Next in our series for Thyroid Awareness Month:
What Questions to Ask Your Physician and Your Pharmacist
ClearSpring Pharmacy is located in Cherry Creek and Littleton, Colorado.
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