Have you been feeling a little tired lately?

Have you been feeling a little tired lately?

By Andrew Anderson, PA-C, Denton County LIVING WELL Magazine

You think you’re just getting old, because of that tiredness you explain away as the aging process, or that thinning of the hair that once used to be so thick and now finds its home on the hairbrush every time you brush. You may be getting older, or might you have a medical problem, such as thyroid disease.

It is estimated that approximately 20 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disease. Many go undiagnosed because they think the fatigue they are feeling is just age or workload related. Many will not go to their clinician because they cannot relate it to a medical problem, and don’t want to complain about something they believe is because of their own lack of activity. So what is thyroid disease and for that matter, what is the thyroid, and what is it supposed to be doing in the body?

The thyroid gland is a small “butterfly” shaped gland in the bottom of the neck that works to provide hormones to facilitate metabolism and general wellbeing. It absorbs iodine, which we get from food. The two substances produced are Triiodothyronine  (T3) and Thyroxine (T4).  Thyroid dysfunction can either be by an overproduction of thyroid hormone, of which the most common disease is called, “Graves disease,” or an underproduction of thyroid hormone, which most often occurs with an autoimmune inflammatory condition called, “Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.”

Thyroid disease can also come as a result of dysfunction of the pituitary gland in the head.  Thyroid disease often is subtle with many found incidentally while being checked by the provider for other things.

So how do you know whether you have a thyroid dysfunction or disease? I had a friend, who once confided with me that for a man, he was ashamed that he had no hair on his legs. It seems that over the period of several months, he lost all the hair from the knees to the feet. He was fatigued also but it didn’t seem to bother him. A blood test confirmed that he had hypothyroidism and he was started on medicine. Within a month, the fatigue that he did not pay much attention to, was gone and he started feeling like a new man.

Some report that their only symptom is sluggishness, or not being able to lose weight even though their intake is not excessive. Without a high degree of suspicion, you might be one of the thousands of people in the United States who will go undiagnosed this year, so the next time you are at your provider’s office, ask your provider if you have ever had your thyroid checked, especially if you experience some of the symptoms that you might be inclined to pass off as old age.

Thyroid disease can be treated effectively. If your thyroid is functioning less than optimal, taking thyroid medicine can enable your levels of T3 and T4 to return to normal. If your thyroid is overproducing, you may find yourself a candidate for surgery to remove part or all the thyroid gland. Either condition can and must be treated for your optimal health.

If you think you might have a thyroid condition, talk to your healthcare provider today, or come see us at North Texas Family Medicine, Pilot Point, or Lake Kiowa. We would love to assist you.

North Texas Family Medicine now has two Texas locations! Visit their original location at 1340 North Highway 377, Suite 110, Pilot Point (940-686-0860) or go see their new Lake Kiowa location at 6400 FM 902, Suite 440, Lake Kiowa (940-580-4332).