So what do you know about autoimmune disorders? (Remember this article?) What do you know about your thyroid? The thyroid disease topic comes up for me a lot and I answer tons of questions about it since I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. So here is a little Thyroid 101.
So what IS your Thyroid?
The thyroid is a large butterfly shaped gland that sits in the front part of the neck. For most people, you never have to be concerned about it being there! It reliably pumps out thyroid hormone that is responsible for a bevy of your bodies functions, most notably your metabolism. Sometimes, the function of this gland can go awry. Here are the two most common causes of Thyroid Disease!
Hashimoto's is your own bodies attack on the thyroid gland causing an "under active" thyroid. Your body recognizes this important gland as a foreign invader instead of your own tissue and starts making antibodies against it. These antibodies attack the gland and cause it to malfunction. Over time, this causes a decrease in thyroid function and decreased thyroid hormone production which is the cause of the many symptoms associated with the condition. Common symptoms are: coldness, dry skin, fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, irregular or heavy periods, and constipation, just to name a few. (I know...sounds fun.)
This autoimmune attack is difficult to control and there are no current medications to stop the attack. The treatment for Hashimoto's is a tiny pill made up of thyroid hormone that you need to take once the thyroid is unable to produce enough hormone for your body.
At the opposite end of the thyroid spectrum is Grave's Disease. This condition is autoimmune over-activation of the thyroid. While antibodies destroy the thyroid in Hashimoto's a different type of antibody is formed in Grave's that binds the thyroid and causes it to be over stimulated. Grave's causes symptoms such as heart palpitations, frequent sweating, anxiety, diarrhea and bulging eyes among others (yes, these also sounds great...).
Unlike the single treatment for Hashimoto's there are a few avenues to treat Grave's Disease such as prescription drugs that decreased the thyroid function, radioactive iodine treatment that binds the thyroid, and also surgical intervention.
The Bottom Line
Like all other autoimmune disorders, women of child-bearing age are most at risk for developing Hashimoto's. For every 10 women who have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, 1 man will get it. Yup, you heard me...we are TEN TIMES more likely to have this disorder. It is estimated that Grave's Disease affects up to TWO PERCENT of females. Combine these two diagnoses and we are looking at a huge number of women dealing with thyroid disease.
Autoimmunity is one of the TOP TEN causes of fatality in women under 65 years old and the 4th leading cause of disability in women. According to the NIH Autoimmune Disorders affect over 23 million people in the United States. Think about this: heart disease affects 22 million per year. And we have an entire month dedicated to heart health and awareness, however many people have never heard of autoimmune disorders.
So What Can You Do?
You may be wondering what you can do! Having your thyroid checked is easy. At your annual physical or ob-gyn exam, make sure your health care provider feels your neck and checks your thyroid with a manual exam. This usually means they feel around the gland and have you swallow a few times when they are pushing on the gland to feel it move. (quick and painless!) You can also ask to have your "thyroid function" tested in blood work which is a simple panel of blood tests.
Are you an Autoimmune Warrior dealing with thyroid disease? If so, I would LOVE to hear from you and how you manage your symptoms. Comment below or say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Resources To Check Out:
6 Ways to Help Your Thyroid Mind Body Green
13 Ways To Treat Hypothyroidism Naturally-MindBodyGreen