A butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, the thyroid secretes hormones that control growth, metabolism and body temperature. Thyroid conditions, which are much more common in women than in men, can affect a range of bodily functions.
Fast Thyroid Facts
- The thyroid weighs 1 ounce, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
- The main purpose of the thyroid is to maintain the basal metabolic rate, or how much energy a person uses while at rest.
Who’s at Risk for Problems?
- One in every 2,000 to 4,000 babies is born with an absent or underactive thyroid gland, according to the Endocrine Society.
- Women older than 60 are most likely to experience an underactive thyroid, according to the University of Michigan Department of Internal Medicine.
Women and Thyroid Issues
- An estimated one in eight women will experience thyroid issues in her lifetime, according to the American Thyroid Association.
- Women are two to 10 times more likely to develop overactive thyroids than men, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
- Around 2 percent of pregnant women will develop hypothyroidism due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, according to the University of Michigan Department of Internal Medicine.
Two Common Thyroid Conditions Explained
- Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. People with the condition may experience anxiety, hand tremor, increased heart rate, trouble sleeping, excessive sweating or persistent nervousness. The condition is typically treated with medications that reduce hormone production. In severe cases, radioactive iodine therapy may be used to kill the part of the thyroid responsible for producing the extra hormones.
- Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Typical symptoms include increased sensitivity to cold, reduced energy, unexplained weight gain, constipation and muscle weakness. Medical professionals typically treat hypothyroidism with medications that replace the missing hormone.
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