13 Thyroid Facts Everyone Should Know

Your thyroid controls your heart rate, your respiration, major organs, and your metabolism. That’s why no one should take this little gland in your neck for granted. Here’s what thyroid experts need you to know.

The thyroid is really important

Transverse/axial plain of CT scan shows extremely enlarged thyroid gland protrude into mediastinum compresses trachea, esophagus and aorta found in an old male patient comes with breathing difficultyKaran Bunjean/Shutterstock

 “The thyroid either directly or indirectly controls almost every single function in the body,” says Becky Campbell, DNM, DC, author of The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan. “We need thyroid hormone in all of our cells, so it is very important to produce a healthy amount of thyroid hormone.”

Thyroid issues can affect your overall health

Thyroid self-exam checkup. Young man touching his neck at home bathroom doing self-check of his thyroid gland looking at mirror for early signs of health problem.Maridav/Shutterstock

With great power comes great responsibility, and the thyroid is no exception. Unfortunately, there are many ways in which this gland can be thrown off, and there are a number of conditions that fall under the category of thyroid disease. The big ones are hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), hyperthyroidism (when it’s overactive), Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid, causing hypothyroidism), and Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism). There are also four types of thyroid cancer to watch for: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic.

Getting your thyroid checked may take more than bloodwork

Doctor checking thyroid glands of senior womanDragon Images/Shutterstock

Whether as part of your annual physical or something you schedule because you’re concerned that something is off, bloodwork can reveal troubles with your thyroid. “Normal” results, however, don’t necessarily mean everything is in working order. “The thyroid lab ranges used can be very wide,” explains Dr. Campbell. “Most doctors are only testing one or two markers when they should be testing seven to nine markers for a full thyroid panel.” Even if a full panel looks normal, a thyroid ultrasound may be needed to detect an issue.

Thyroid conditions can arise at any age

Lonely Asian woman is eating alone on bed in bright morning.Rachata Teyparsit/Shutterstock

“A common myth about thyroid health is that only older women can develop a thyroid condition,” says Dr. Campbell. “The fact is that women of all ages develop thyroid issues. During puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, and perimenopause, the risk of developing thyroid disease is increased.”

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