Thyroid problems can start in men and women of any age, but many older women develop thyroid disease after menopause. Understanding what this medical condition is can help you spot the warning signs so you know when to seek help from a medical professional.
The thyroid is a small gland positioned at the front of your neck. It has a distinctive butterfly shape, with wings that wrap around your windpipe. Your thyroid helps your body function properly by releasing thyroid hormones. These chemicals help control metabolism, allowing your body to convert the food you eat into energy.
Thyroid disease is when your thyroid stops working properly, and changes in the amount of thyroid hormone it makes occur as a result. Hypothyroidism is when you don’t produce enough thyroid hormone, and hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid manufactures too much.
There are a number of risk factors for thyroid disease. If you have a family member who developed it, you’re more likely to get it as well. Certain medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus also increase the risk. People who take medications that contain large amounts of iodine are at a higher risk for thyroid disease as well.
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have different symptoms. With hyperthyroidism, you may experience:
Conversely, some symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
If you have any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your medical provider. They can order blood work and perform other tests to determine if you have thyroid disease. Residents of Bethesda Gardens senior living community in Arlington, TX, can use our scheduled transportation services to visit their health care provider’s office.
How a medical professional treats thyroid disease depends on the type, the severity of the problem and other factors like the age and health history of the person. In some cases, more than one treatment may be necessary to address the problem.
For hyperthyroidism, oral medications are usually the first treatment. Health care providers may prescribe:
Surgery called a thyroidectomy is also sometimes necessary to treat hyperthyroidism. During the procedure, a surgeon removes the thyroid. Because your body no longer produces thyroid hormones, you’ll typically need to take synthetic thyroid hormones for the rest of your life after a thyroidectomy.
Typically, medical providers recommend thyroid hormone replacement therapy with a drug like levothyroxine for the treatment of hypothyroidism. These drugs are synthetic or naturally derived thyroid hormones. Taking them increases your supply of thyroid hormone so your body can function properly.
If you have thyroid disease, self-care is important for managing symptoms. Following these tips can help you feel your best.
Medications for thyroid disease can’t deliver benefits if you skip doses or forget to take them. To help you remember, fill a pill case with your doses or purchase a timer pill bottle cap that will tell you the last time you opened it. You can also use medication reminder apps like MyTherapy or Dosecast that will track your doses for you and let you know when to take your pills.
Your medical provider will likely want you to come in for checkups regularly and may ask you to periodically have blood drawn to check your thyroid levels. Make sure you keep all your appointments so they can monitor how you’re doing and adjust your treatment plan as needed.
When you first receive a thyroid disease diagnosis, your medical provider may want you to get plenty of rest until your medication begins working. Once you receive the green light from your health care provider, keeping fit with regular exercise can help manage symptoms. Yoga, brisk walking and other gentle forms of exercise may ease fatigue, improve bowel regularity and support weight management.
Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about whether you need to avoid eating certain foods or taking specific medications and supplements at the same time as your thyroid medication. Some drugs shouldn’t be taken close to when you’ve eaten walnuts or soybean flour. Iron supplements, multivitamins with iron, calcium supplements, antacids and some ulcer and cholesterol medications may interact with drugs used to treat thyroid disease.