“If it seems like everyone you know is tired all the time, or constantly stressed, you may be tempted to overlook your own fatigue or anxiety,” says Dr. Steven Petak, president of AACE, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. “In today’s hectic world, it’s easy to convince yourself that these problems are really just signs of the times.”
The real cuprit might thyroid disease.
It’s estimated that more than half the 27 million Americans who have thyroid disease remain undiagnosed. “The disorder can be difficult to diagnose because its most common symptoms are also indicative of a host of other problems,” says Petak. “Doctors may focus on one or more of these isolated symptoms without looking at the total picture that adds up to thyroid disease.”
One victim of the disease, for example, was routinely fatigued, but the doctors she visited suggested it was because she was overweight. If she shed some pounds, they said, she’d have more energy.
Finally, at a walk-in clinic where she’d gone for treatment of a common cold, a doctor asked if she’d ever had her thyroid checked. “My results came back at the very edge of the normal range,” she said. “And while my hormone levels were in the normal range, it turns out the level wasn’t ‘normal’ for me and needed to be adjusted with medication.” She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
A few years ago, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists proposed a narrower normal TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) range than the one used by most labs. “Since many physicians may not be aware of this, it could lead to a patient being told their results were normal, when in fact they fall outside the newly proposed range,” Petak said.
Another woman diagnosed with the disease had previously tested as normal, but didn’t know you could develop thyroid disease at any time. “A few years ago, I noticed that I felt hyper and stressed all the time,” she said. “My heart raced constantly and I always felt hot, even in a room others said was cold.” Her doctors finally did a TSH test and diagnosed her with hyperthyroidism.
The good news is, thyroid disease is one of the easiest maladies to detect and treat, experts say. Here are the 10 most important things to know about thyroid disease, according to AACE:
• Up to 27 million Americans may be affected by thyroid disorders, although more than half remain undiagnosed.
• Thyroid disorders are more common among women.
• Thyroid disorders tend to run in the family.
• Fatigue is a common complaint for under- and overactive thyroid conditions.
• TSH testing is the most useful test for thyroid screening.
• Regular checkups are the key to successfully managing a malfunctioning thyroid gland.
• Changing brands and dosage that affect thyroid hormone levels should be followed by retesting.
• Do not change your dose of thyroid medication without guidance from your physician.
• Thyroid conditions in pregnancy warrant close attention.
• Thyroid cancer is one of the fastest-growing cancers in America — and one of the most curable.
— ara content