Your thyroid is likely something to which you give little thought until it becomes a problem. Thyroid health is sometimes overlooked in favor of more popular issues. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people suffering from thyroid diseases, so understanding the symptoms and what you should look for is very important.

First, it is important to understand the purpose of your thyroid. The thyroid is a small gland located at the base of your neck. It produces the T3 and T4 hormones. These hormones are responsible for your metabolism, which includes the rate at which you burn calories and the speed at which your heart beats.

Problems with your thyroid occur on both ranges of the spectrum. Either you can suffer from an overactive or an underactive thyroid.

Symptoms of Thyroid Disease Hyperthyroidism

When the thyroid over produces its hormones the condition is called hyperthyroidism. There is more than one reason this can occur, but Graves disease is the most common cause. This is an autoimmune disorder causing overstimulation of the thyroid.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

Constant hunger without weight gain
Weight loss when no changes are made in diet
Rapid beating, irregular beating, or pounding of the heart
Trembling hands and fingers
Increased sensitivity to heat
Increased sweating
Muscle weakness
Increase in the regularity of bowel movements
Irregular menstrual periods with light flow

Just as the thyroid can over produce, it can also under produce. This is known as hypothyroidism. This occurs when your body does not make enough of the T3 and T4 hormones. It can be caused by Hashimotos disease, an autoimmune disorder like Graves disease, or it can be caused by thyroid removal, radiation, or the treatment of hyperthyroidism.

This is important to note: if you are treating an overactive thyroid it can hurl your body out of balance and create a problem with underactive thyroid. If you are undergoing thyroid treatment of any kind, it is important to monitor your symptoms closely and speak to your doctor about any changes. You can go from having one problem to the opposite problem in no time at all when dealing with thyroid issues.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

Weight gain
Increased sensitivity to cold
Joint or muscle pain
Dry skin
Hoarseness of the voice
Puffy face
Excessive menstrual bleeding

As you can see, some of the symptoms are similar, but most are the exact opposite. This is why tracking your symptoms and knowing your risks is important.

Thyroid Cancer

In addition to understanding hyper- and hypothyroidism, it is also important for women to know the warning signs of thyroid cancer. In general, there are no specific symptoms. Severe cases might cause swelling in the neck or problems swallowing. However, most people experience no symptoms until the cancer is well advanced.

Be aware of your risk. If you fall into one of the following categories, you and your doctor should pay special attention to thyroid health and monitor changes as carefully as possible. If you:

Have a history of thyroid exposure to radiation treatments
Are from a family with history of thyroid cancer
Are in the 40+ age group

You have a higher risk for thyroid cancer.

Thyroid health is important, even if it is not spoken of as frequently as other diseases and conditions. Be sure you are caring for your thyroid and that you know how to tell if there is a problem.